Vail Law: Cohabitation agreements becoming more popular |

Vail Law: Cohabitation agreements becoming more popular

Rohn RobbinsVail, CO, Colorado

Cohabitation agreements are becoming more commonAgreements between couples seem to be more common in these economic times========Use Vail Law bug===========Cohabitation agreements are contracts for living together in un-wedded bliss. Rules of the road on the path to non-matrimonial harmony, if you will. They seem more common in uncertain economic times.Cohabitation is, simply, the state of living together, presumably romantically, absent the benefit of marriage. But why have co-habitation agreements? Wasn’t part of the reason you were living together in the first place to avoid legal entanglements? But this is America, the land of lawsuits. And this is Colorado which, if you didn’t know already, is a “common law” marriage state.Benefits of marriageFirst, though, a look at the benefits of marriage. Preeminent among the benefits (from a strictly legal point of view) is heirship, the right to succeed to the fortunes of your beloved once he or she has gone on to his just reward. Of course, one can ordinarily leave one’s fortune to anyone he or she pleases – even the family goldfish – but since few people bother to draft a will, normally, only those parties related in blood, and law, can inherit the estate of a deceased if no will exists. So, if you’re not married and your beloved didn’t draft a will and expressly include you in it, you don’t get squat. If you’re married and your beloved died without a will, you get whatever meager fortune he or she amassed.There are other benefits. If married, you get to act for one another as each other’s agent in all sorts of business affairs. Each of you is magically invested with certain authority to bind the other to all sorts of complicated obligations. This implied agency can, in point of fact, invest each of you with a whole panoply of powers and, yes, benefits. It could also get you in debt up to your ears without your knowledge or consent.Other benefits include insurance benefits, tax benefits, and, here in Happy Valley, even discounted ski passes if you work for the right folks. There is, too, the grinning approval of your in-laws who, if you were simply co-habitating, might not include you in the family Thanksgiving feast.Common-law loveWhat matters, too, is that Colorado is, as I said before, a common-law marriage state. What this means is that you can become married to your beloved without a ceremony of any sort. You don’t need a preacher, or even a judge, to lock you into wedlock. All you lovebirds need to do to become husband and wife is to “hold yourselves out to be married.” Let me give an example or two. For instance, if you tell all your friends “you just don’t believe in churchy stuff, the two of you are the same as married.” In you have just revoked your bachelorhood. In another scenario, if you apply to your employer for a spousal ski pass, representing yourself to your employer and the world as a married couple. Congratulations, welcome to marriage. There is no magic formula in Colorado as to when a common law marriage has come into being. Common law marriage is not defined in this state as a fixed period of time of co-habitation. In Colorado, the test is the “present intent” of the parties, as evidenced by their conduct and general repute. If you thought you were married and if you acted as if you were married, if everybody thought you were married, if you said you were married – you are married, regardless of how long you have lived together. Yikes!Agreeing to cohabitateSo, moving on to cohabitation agreements… First, if you don’t want to be married, ceremonially or otherwise, a cohabitation agreement can recite that. The phrase in the co-habitation agreement would be worded something like this: “We are not married! We don’t want to be married! Even if we act like we’re married, say we’re married, or people think we’re married, we are not married, don’t want to be married, and we really, really, really mean it!”What else a co-habitation agreement can accomplish is to provide a blueprint to handle breakups and avoid lawsuits. If everything is laid out beforehand (and a co-habitation agreement can be as detailed as you like, even to the point of spelling out who takes out the trash and who pays the gas bill), then there should be no disputes if something goes awry.Cohabitation agreements may also act as devices to insure that what is yours remains yours and what is your significant other’s remains the other’s. Such agreements may also act to insure that your intended heirs have free and unfettered access to succeed to your estate when you (hopefully long into the throes of old age) at last demise.In this litigious world of ours a carefully crafted cohabitation agreement may provide a useful tool to have at least one less thing keep you awake at night.Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley. His practice areas include: business & commercial transactions, real estate and development, homeowner’s associations, family law and divorce and civil litigation. He is a former adjunct professor of law and may be heard on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) as host of “Community Focus.” Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or

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