Q: My life partner and I are buying a house. He wants to put his daughter’s name on the deed instead of his own along with mine. If he predeceases me and I want to sell, could I sell without his daughter’s permission?

She might want to keep the house, but I doubt she’d be able to afford it and then I would be responsible for making the payments. Also, if I want to buy another property while this house is not sold yet, would my credit be damaged from the unsold property?

A: The problem with unmarried partners buying property is that there can be a lot of misunderstandings about who wants to do what with the house down the line. You and your partner should have partnership agreement that spells out the terms of ownership with the property. If the two of you are putting in equal amount of cash for the down payment, and will split the expenses of the property, then you and he should own it.

If he wants to leave his share of the property to his daughter after his death, then you will have a new partner. Your partnership agreement could spell out whether you have the right to buy out the daughter’s share, and for how much money and under what terms. But if he leaves her his share or if he puts her on the deed, she becomes an owner of the property and you will not be able to dispose of, or even refinance, the property without her agreement.

Please talk to an estate attorney who is well versed in partnership agreements between unmarried partners before you sign on the dotted line.

March 26, 2009