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Cohabitation Agreements and Estate Planning

Cohabitation agreements, also known as domestic partnership agreements or living together agreements, are legal contracts that are typically entered into by unmarried couples who are living together in a committed relationship. As a Folsom lawyer specializing in estate planning, such arrangements are occasionally entered into by my clients. These agreements can address various aspects of the couple’s life together, including financial matters, property rights, and other responsibilities. While cohabitation agreements primarily focus on the present, they can also have implications for estate planning in several ways:

  1. Asset Protection: Cohabitation agreements can help define the ownership of assets acquired during the relationship. They can specify how property is titled and who has ownership rights. This can be particularly important if one partner brings significant assets into the relationship or if the couple acquires property together.
  2. Inheritance: Cohabitation agreements can address how assets are distributed upon the death of one partner. Without such an agreement, the surviving partner may have limited or no inheritance rights. The agreement can define the inheritance provisions, ensuring that each partner’s wishes are honored. Notwithstanding the proceeding, it is recommended to get proper estate planning done for inheritance, such as by the creation of a will or living trust
  3. Beneficiary Designations: The agreement can specify beneficiary designations for various assets, such as retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and bank accounts. This helps ensure that the intended beneficiary inherits these assets.
  4. Financial Support: Cohabitation agreements can outline financial responsibilities during the relationship and in the event of separation or death. They can specify issues related to spousal support, alimony, and financial support for any children from the relationship.
  5. Health Care Decisions: While not a direct part of a cohabitation agreement, couples can also include medical directives and powers of attorney within their estate planning documents. This ensures that each partner has the legal authority to make medical decisions and manage the other’s financial affairs in the event of incapacity.
  6. Debt and Liabilities: The agreement can address how shared debts and liabilities are managed and allocated, both during the relationship and in the event of separation or death.
  7. Parental Rights: If the couple has children together, the cohabitation agreement can address issues related to custody, visitation, and support in case of separation or the death of one partner.


It’s important to note that the enforceability of cohabitation agreements can vary by jurisdiction. They should be drafted with the assistance of a Folsom attorney experienced in estate planning, in conjunction with a family law lawyer, to ensure they meet the legal requirements and reflect the intentions of the parties involved.

Additionally, for estate planning purposes, it’s advisable for both partners to create individual wills, powers of attorney, and advance health care directives to ensure their wishes are legally documented. Cohabitation agreements can complement these estate planning documents, helping to create a comprehensive plan for the management and distribution of assets and responsibilities. If you have any other questions about cohabitation agreements and estate planning, contact Thapar Law at 916-579-0605 or send us a message

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