Q: I moved in with my committed boyfriend about 10 years ago. I have helped with the bills and repairs since moving in and even pay the property taxes. We cannot get married or he will lose an income stream he inherited. I am concerned that if he passes away, his kids will kick me out of my home. What can I do to protect myself?
A: You are right to be concerned. You are in a situation where you are at the mercy of your boyfriend and his heirs. Since you are not on the home’s title, you have no ownership rights, nor the protections afforded a tenant.
Even if he were to write a will leaving you the house when he dies, wills are not contracts, and he could change it at any time without informing you.
You have options. You could accept the status quo, continue to live there while saving money just in case he passes away or you break up. If you chose this option, I would suggest that you limit your spending on repairs and property tax, and come to an understanding with him regarding the bills.
I think a better choice would be to sit him down and have a heart-to-heart conversation. A decade is a long time, and you should not have to worry about where you are going to live in your sunset years.
There are various ways that you could work things out to satisfy both of your interests.
He could deed you onto the title of the home or have the home put into a trust that will control what happens with the house if you part ways or either of you pass away.
If he does not want to share ownership with you, perhaps because he wants to leave the house to his children, you could purchase life insurance. Include the payment along with the other household bills, and if he passes before you, you will have enough to buy the house from his kids or get a new place.
There are many other creative options that you could come up with.
If he does not want to have the discussion at all, you may have to take a second look at the relationship.
Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar.