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Cohabiting couples should be careful when buying property

While splitting assets between married couples in Texas can be complicated, there is a legal framework in place to help determine how to divide assets. When an unmarried couple owns assets together, separating these assets after a breakup can be much more complex.

When signing an agreement for real estate property, both married and unmarried couples should view such transactions as a business deal. Individuals may even wish to have a lawyer prepare legal documents to ensure that their interests are protected. Cohabitation does not have the same legal protections as marriage. Since Texas is a community property state, most property acquired during the marriage is presumed to be equally owned by both parties. This same presumption does not apply to property owned by a cohabiting couple. According to a 2011 survey by the Pew Research Center, most cohabiting couples made big purchases together.

Another way to get a head start on property division is to have a cohabitation agreement. This is a legal contract similar to a prenuptial agreement but made without consideration of marriage. The agreement may specify which assets are subject to division, who owns what property and each person's obligations to joint assets. It may also stipulate how credit cards, bank accounts and disputes will be handled. A couple can also come up with their own arrangement, such as having one partner pay market rent for his or her share of a property.

Cohabiting couples may choose to contact a family law attorney before jointly purchasing a property. A lawyer may be able to review contracts, loan documents and deeds.

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