Unmarried Couples and Home Ownership in Colorado

February 15, 2021

You and your partner feel that you are in a relationship destined to last. Perhaps you have been together for months or years but keep spending thousands of dollars in rent. You and your partner are tired of pouring your hard-earned money into an apartment that you will never see a return on. In this situation, it is natural that you would want to explore homeownership, something that will give equity instead of seeing your money go to waste.

That a couple should be married before obtaining homeownership is a common myth. In reality, there are many options in Colorado for two unmarried people to own a house. If you are in a partnership but unmarried, contact an experienced Denver attorney to help you understand your path to homeownership.

Unmarried Couples Property Rights in Colorado

Married couples in Colorado hold a community property title for a shared home or property. However, the process is different for an unmarried couple. When an unmarried couple in Colorado purchases a house, they will, unless otherwise stated, enter into an agreement that is known as Tenants in Common. As Tenants in Common, you and your partner will each own a share of the house. This is usually split in half: you own 50% of the house and your partner owns the other 50%. However, each person does not need to own an equal share. For example, one partner could own 40% and the other 60%. One partner could own 70% and the other 30%, and so on. This means that if one person in the relationship contributes more money, they can rest assured that they own more percentage of the house.

The most important thing to note from this kind of ownership is that the share of the partner may be given or sold to another person at any time in the agreement without the consent of the other partner. Furthermore, if one of the partners dies, their percentage of the property does not automatically go to the other partner. The person who passes’ shares will go to an heir specified by that person in their will. This heir can be anyone. Furthermore, the partner may sell or split their share with someone else at any time.

Let’s take the example of an unmarried couple in Colorado named Mary and Jim. They are not ready to get married but feel it is the time in their relationship to buy a house. After consulting with an attorney, Mary and Jim decide that the best option for them is to obtain property rights as Tenants in Common. This means:

  • Mary and Jim will each own a percentage of the house. Each can hold 50% of the property; however, Mary could hold 60% of the property, and Jim could hold 40%, and so on.
  • If, tragically, Jim dies, Mary does not automatically inherit Jim’s share of the home. Jim’s share will go to whoever is designated as the heir in his will.
  • Jim or Mary may hand over or sell their share of the property at any time in the relationship or its ending.

Unmarried Couples in Colorado Can Buy Property as Joint Tenants

There is another option for unmarried couples in Colorado to purchase a home, although this option needs to be specifically explained in the purchase agreement. This is called Joint Tenants. Perhaps the most distinct difference between Tenants in Common and Joint Tenants is that if one of the Joints Tenants legally ceases to exist, the property's ownership is automatically obtained by the other partner. Put more simply: If one person dies, the other person automatically becomes the owner of their share of the property.

Let’s refer again to the unmarried Colorado couple Mary and Jim. In this scenario, the partners have purchased property as Joint Tenants

  • Mary and Jim do not need to hold equal shares of the home, but if not specified, the courts will assume that each partner holds 50% each.
  • If Mary tragically dies, Jim will inherit Mary’s share of the property rights.
  • Once Mary passes, Jim has the right to leave the home to whoever he wants. Conversely, if Jim dies first, Mary is free to leave the estate to anyone she wants in her will.

You Can Still Get Married

Situations always change. You and your partner may have never thought you would get married. You may have even been opposed to the idea. As time passes, you and your partner may reconsider this decision. If an unmarried couple in a Tenants in Common agreement wants to change to Joint Tenant ownership, this can usually be easily done with the help of an attorney.

Taxes May Be Different Depending on Each Option

When deciding whether a Tenant in Common or Joint Tenancy, the issue of taxes come into play. If you and your partner decide to get married, this will also affect how you are taxed. Learning how each option works for you in terms of taxes will be something that will be unique to each option, whether unmarried or married.

What Option Will Be Best for You and Your Partner?

Hiring an experienced attorney is the best way for you and your partner to ensure you have entered into the right agreement to home purchasing and property rights. Every couple is different and comes to the table with different goals, ideas of what home-ownership looks like, and financial situations. This may be one of the most important decisions in your life. It will be worth the peace of mind knowing that you have entered this new phase of your life with everything thoroughly taken care of, knowing that what you own is carefully spelled out in the agreement beforehand.

If you are an unmarried couple in Colorado and are considering buying property, contact the experienced attorneys at Johnson Law Group at (720) 463-4333 or through Text-to-Chat at (720) 730-4558 today. We would welcome the opportunity to explore which options are best for you when purchasing a home.

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Written by Family Law Attorney Myles S. Johnson
Divorce doesn’t have to be dramatic. For the litigants, losing your spouse is significant enough. But you can choose the way it affects your daily life. The only guarantee I can give is that the feeling that you have right now will not be the feeling you end with. This is a season in your life, and it must be approached that way.
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