Massachusetts does not recognize any rights for a couple that cohabit. This means that if you are in an unmarried relationship and it fails, you do not have the right to separate support, alimony, property division or claim for loss of consortium. Also, Massachusetts does not recognize "common law marriage".
Since Massachusetts does have established protections for a cohabitating couple, it is essential that individuals take steps to protect their rights should their relationship fail. A well-crafted cohabitation agreement should at least include:
1. How pre-existing assets (real estate, automobiles, furniture, financial accounts, etc.) should be owned and maintained;
2. If and how expenses should be shared;
3. How new assets will be owned and maintained;
4. How specific assets will be distributed in the event of breakdown of the relationship; and
5. What process will be utilized for resolving property disputes.
A cohabitation agreement is especially essential if a couple purchases a home together. Specifically, a cohabitation agreement in the context of purchasing a home can set forth:
a. How the home will be titled (there are specific rights conveyed to each party depending on if parties own the home as "joint tenants with the right of survivorship" vs. "tenants in common";
b. How much of the home will each party own;
c. Each parties' buy-out rights;
d. How will the house be appraised; and
e. What happens to the house if the relationship ends.
A well-drafted cohabitation agreement can save couples a lot of heartache, time and resources that they might otherwise expend litigating a dispute should their relationship end.
Should you be in a long term relationship or considering cohabitation as the next stage in your relationship, contact the Law Offices of Renee Lazar either through email or telephone 978-844-4095 to schedule a FREE one hour no obligation consultation to discuss the financial differences between marriage and cohabitation and the limits on protections that a cohabitation agreement and estate plan can provide.