Although 46% of adults in the U.S. are single these days, that does not mean they are living alone. A lot of people live with their romantic partners, and yet they fail to have an agreement that outlines their rights and obligations with respect to their finances if they separate or someone dies.  A simple cohabitation agreement outlines what they each need to contribute while together and what happens in the event of a break-up, or death of either party.

Here are 12 key questions to ponder:

(1) How much will you each contribute to the household expenses while together?

(2) If you are both renting a place together, who moves out if things don’t work out? 

(3) If you own a place together, how much time do you have to agree on the terms of a buyout before the home needs to be listed for sale?

(4) Who remains responsible for the lease/mortgage?

(5) Who gets to keep the security deposit/escrow funds?

(6) What happens to any joint bank or credit card accounts?

(7) Which furniture/household items remain with each party? 

(8) How much written notice needs to be given to the other person before the process of unraveling ties begins?

(9) Do you need an explicit provision regarding confidentiality if you work from home?

(10) Would you like for all social media posts together be taken down within a reasonable timeframe without anyone making any disparaging remarks about the other?

(11) In the event of either party’s death while still happily living together, do you need to provide a certain amount of life insurance or name your partner as the beneficiary in your will or retirement accounts? 

(12) If you can’t agree on the implementation of your contract, wouldn’t you want to add a requirement to mediate/arbitrate before anyone files in court?  

All of these questions, can be easily addressed in a straightforward agreement that you both execute before any problems arise, and maybe they never will.  But lots of partnerships unravel, just like half of all marriages will end.  Better to be safe than sorry, and negotiate a conscious uncoupling upfront.  I’m not saying it won’t be emotionally messy– there is nothing anyone can do to prevent that, but we can minimize the legal and financial implications when you need to part ways.

By Regina A. DeMeo