When 2 become 1

When 2 become 1

At this time of year, you can’t help but notice all the advertisements for Valentine’s Day. My lucky other half managed to plan our anniversary for this month and is accordingly never going to be forgiven if he forgets it! Amongst all the advertisements for the general joys of coupledom, it’s a good time to also consider the more practical side of 2 becoming 1.

When you decide to merge your life with someone else’s for the longer term, whatever that looks like for you, there’s all sorts of things to think about, and I’m talking about more than just deciding on who has to get rid of their extra furniture when you move in together. A change in relationship status often means one partner moving in with another, or both partners relocating to a new home together. Whether you are renters or owners, make sure to update your new address on all your accounts and identification documents as well as with Centrelink, Medicare, the ATO and the often-forgotten Australian Electoral Roll. If you have changed your name, this will also need to be updated. You may also wish to consider whether it is appropriate to get legal advice about a binding financial agreement in relation to any potential breakdown in the relationship in future.

If you intend on purchasing real estate together, you should consider whether you want to purchase as joint tenants, where you own the property together and if something happens to one, ownership legally passes to the other; or tenants-in-common with each partner owning an individual share of the property that you can be left to someone else in your will eg. a child. A family trust could also be considered for asset protection and tax efficiencies. You should get some legal and financial advice before making a final decision as this may not be as straightforward as you would like to think.

When you are considering purchasing joint assets, or incurring joint debts, you also need to consider the financial aspects of your respective situations and how you intend to deal with combined expenses in the future. Will you be opening a joint bank account, or keeping accounts in individual names, or both? Is there going to be a joint loan? Just be aware that any funds held in joint accounts or joint debts will become the surviving partners should something happen to one.

Which brings me to the topic that many of us do not want to consider – what happens when one partner passes away? This is usually outlined in a will, but for many new relationships, this is understandably not high on the priority list. If you want to ensure that your partner receives a benefit from your estate, you need to prepare a will and update your superannuation beneficiary nomination. Otherwise, your partner may be put in the position of having to prove that they were in a relationship with you at the time of death, including things like the duration of the relationship, any common residence, whether there was a sexual relationship, and the extent of financial dependence or interdependence. Don’t forget that marriage could invalidate a previous will!

Having someone in your life that you love is something that we all hope for, just make sure you remember to do the practical things along the way… and don’t forget Valentine’s Day! KC Hilton, WNB Legal