Domestic Partner's Homeownership Worries

Dear Dr. Don, 

My gentleman friend and I have been together for the past 25 years and are moving in together after I retire in a few months. He bought our dream retirement home but didn't place my name on the deed. He believes his sister will try to get the house if he dies first. How can we be assured that the house will go to me without a fight from his sister? Thank you for your consideration.


-Anne Awaits

Dear Anne, 

So, if I understand all of this correctly, you aren't married. Your friend bought the house, but you're not on the deed.

Here's what I think the real question is: How can you be sure he wants you to get the house should he die first?

There are several ways he could help guarantee that you get the house. Owning the house as joint tenants with rights of survivorship is probably the best for you. Another option would be for him to name you to inherit the house in his will.

Further, an attorney could structure an arrangement so that you have an interest in the home and his sister inherits it if you were to die before her. If your friend fails to take any such steps, it would appear he's not interested in ensuring that you get the home.

If you aren't married, I suggest you have a discussion about it. The house isn't the only financial issue at stake. A possible Social Security spousal benefit would be good for you to have if he dies before you. Short of marriage, the Social Security Administration recognizes so-called common law marriages in certain states.

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