When living together and you intend not to be recognized as domestic partners, you should draw up Living Together Contracts (LTC) to detail how properties are shared between you. You will need to spell out this contract with your lawyer because the law does not state how or if you will share properties in Washington. If you are registered as domestic partners, you have all the rights married couples have under Washington state laws. If, however, you intend to move out of Washington, you should get an LTC.

With the LTC, you are clear on who owns what property and how joint ownership of any property will be amicable dissolved between you. It also spells out how both of you will manage debt and other responsibilities you wish to manage together.

The Boundaries

LTCs are quite versatile. You can have LTC for your properties, debts, finances, and responsibilities. You can also have personal LTC for private information. In fact, if you don’t have lots of assets, LTC can still be used to detail how you manage your daily expenses. Usually, it is advised that you separate your LTC. A court, when reviewing these documents, should easily tell what kind of LTC it is.

LTCs are also good for when you are in a committed relationship. You should not draft an LTC when you don’t trust your partner or if the relationship is meant to be for a short time. Make sure you consult your will’s attorney before drafting an LTC.

If one partner earns more than the other and wants to share or mix expenses, drafting an LTC is also appropriate. If one partner had incurred the debt before entering the relationship, an LTC could also detail how that debt can be gradually erased with both partners’ input.

LTC Cover Many Things

LTCs state many things. They cover a lot of ground on how unmarried couples manage income, properties, expenses, assets, credit cards, and bank accounts.

It will give information on who accrued what debts before and during the relationship and if the debts were incurred together.

It will also detail how you plan to go about financial responsibilities and obligations like child support.

A typical LTC will go as far as spelling out if you will have joint bank accounts or maintain separate bank accounts. However, you should be aware that if you open joint accounts, either partner can withdraw from or carry our transactions in the account without notification of the other. An LTC will also state if you want to own credit cards separately or not.

LTCs will also give details of properties and assets. The properties could have been owned before or during the relationship.

The most important reason for signing an LTC however is to spell out what happens to these properties, debts and responsibilities if you and your partner break up.

LTCs are Changeable

As the relationship grows and matures, you might find the need to change your LTC. This is entirely possible. However, you should use simple, straightforward language and state if the new LTC replaces the old one in whole or in parts. More importantly, both parties should bear witness to and sign the new agreement.

Chad Foster is a trusted family law and divorce lawyer serving Snohomish and King counties with an office in Bothell. Contact us today to discuss your legal issue.

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