My boyfriend and I are registered domestic partners in the [LOCATION]. We just bought a house together, and I want things in writing such as how to split payments, what happens if we break up or one of us dies, etc. What kinds of protections do we need?? The house is in both names but the mortgage is mine only so this is especially important to me!
Good question and you're right. You should reduce your arrangements to writing. It can avoid a lot of aggravation and animosity of "something" happens. It does not only have to be about the issue of your breaking up. It sounds a bit like your partner is not thrilled with the idea of formalities of an agreement, so here's a thought for him. Let's so you don't break up and neither of you dies, but you become ill or disabled. If you have a power of attorney (document naming someone to take financial and legal action for you) that person (called an agent) may have the right to pay your share of house expense while you are disabled, or choose not to. If you're the only person on the mortgage and your agent decides not to pay it the house would be foreclosed. Have we gotten your partner's attention yet? Hopefully, he'll now understand that you're right. When you do the agreement you should each have a separate lawyer represent you but try (and you have to try) to make it a constructive not destructive process. Too often legal wrangling can undermine a relationship, but it doesn't have to. Working out the "what if's" that affect your relationship if done well can strengthen your relationship, not hurt it. As a suggestion, start from the positive and focus on issues you agree on and build progress first. The points you raise are all important and should be addressed. You should also address insurance, improvements, when and if the house can be sold, what happens if one of you stops working, your mortgage rates rise (e.g. if its an ARM), you refinance, etc. For more ideas see the planning tip in this website about tenants in common agreement and the tip on living together agreements.
Your question also raises another issue which warrants some attention. You said that you registered as a domestic partnership. These laws are quite new and vary considerably in the states that have them. As part of the process of preparing your living together agreement be certain that your respective attorneys review your state's law to see what, if anything, it says about each of your respective rights as well as the agreement. The federal Defense of Marriage Act will not recognize your partnership as equivalent to a marriage for federal purposes (e.g. income taxes).
Finally, you didn't mention taxes. If your estates are large and the house valuable there could be gift and estate tax issues that warrant attention. From an income tax perspective if your partner is not on the mortgage he may have no right to deduct any interest payments if he contributes to the payment of the monthly mortgage. You might need an accountant's input on this.
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