Living Together Contracts

Read this if you are part of a Washington couple who cannot or decide not to marry or be registered domestic partners.Publication #3909EN

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

You should read this if you are part of a couple living in the Washington State and you cannot or decide not to marry or become registered domestic partners. You will learn how a Living Together Contract (an LTC) works, if it makes sense for your situation, other options you may have, and where you can learn more.

The law generally says nothing about if, and how, partners in a long-term relationship share your property, debts, and other responsibilities. An LTC is a written contract you make to show how you have agreed to manage these things.

No. You should only make an LTC if you are in a long-term committed relationship, there are financial differences between you and your partner, and you are planning to mix the things that you own or share your expenses.

Examples: You should make an LTC if one of you earns much more than the other does or one of you entered the relationship with lots of debt.

Maybe not. If one of you is age 62 or older, you can register with the state as domestic partners. In Washington, registered domestic partners have most of the rights and responsibilities of married spouses.

Do it early on. It is easier to do it then than when your relationship is strained and might be ending.

It can cover all your finances and the division of responsibility in your relationship. Or you can limit it to key things, like buying a house or other large expense.

It can cover income either of you earn while living together. Is it your income alone, or will you share it with your partner? If you share, will it belong equally to both of you? What about income from other sources?

Your LTC can also cover everything you own together, including:

  • Property you each owned before your relationship and before you moved in together.
  • Inheritances and gifts one or both partners got during the relationship.
  • Property you bought during the relationship. You should further divide this property into categories, such as:
    • Property one of you bought that you plan to own separately.
    • Property you bought together and plan to own 50/50.
    • Property you bought together and plan to own according to your contribution. Example: You buy a microwave together for $100. You contributed $75. Your partner contributed $25. Relative ownership would be 75% by you and 25% by your partner.
    • Property one of you bought; the other contributed to it later. Example: Your partner buys a house with their savings or inheritance. You agree to contribute a certain amount of time, labor, or resources to improving the house. Your LTC should state your understanding about each person's interest in the house. Will your partner stay the sole owner? Will your labor build "sweat equity" in the house?

You LTC can cover things you owe, including:

  • Debts or other financial obligations (such as child support, car payments, credit card payments) one of you incurred before your relationship and before you moved in together.
  • Who is responsible for what part of any debts during the relationship.

Your LTC can cover if you will keep separate bank accounts or put all your money into one joint account.

Your LTC should say if you plan to hold credit card accounts individually or jointly, and which of you is responsible for which expenses or charges. Each partner to a joint credit card account is personally responsible for all charges made on the card. Example: Your partner runs up a bill of $1,000 without telling you. The credit card company can hold you responsible for it anyway.

Your TC can cover general expenses, including:

  • Who will pay which living expenses (utilities, groceries, homeowners or rental insurance)
  • Who will pay what personal expenses (medical and dental, car insurance, and clothing)
  • If you rent where you live, your LTC can cover this. Will both names appear on the lease? How will you divide responsibility for rent and repairs? Who will keep the rental if you break up?

Yes. This is its main purpose. Each section should have language explaining how you would divide your assets and debts in case of a break-up. Examples: How will you divide joint bank accounts? How will you divide the charges on joint credit cards?

It should also explain how you plan to manage disagreements about matters your LTC addresses. Going to court might be expensive and take a long time. You could put in your LTC that you agree instead to something like mediation. Read Mediation: Should I Use It to learn more.

Yes, if both of you sign and date it. If it covers land you own and any buildings on it (called real property), you should have it notarized. You each need your own signed copy.

Maybe. The court must first find you are in a "committed intimate relationship" before it can divide your property and debts. Read Washington Property Law for Unmarried Couples. You can use the forms and instructions in our Unmarried Couples: File a Complaint to Divide Your Property and Debts packet to start the case. 

Yes. Your changed LTC should make clear that it reflects everything you have agreed to and it replaces all earlier agreements. Here is some sample language: "This agreement contains the entire understanding between us about the matters addressed here. It can only be changed in writing signed by both parties." 

If you both decide to change part of the agreement, put the change in writing. Sign it as soon as possible. Do not just verbally agree to a change.

Any change you make to your LTC must say if it replaces the whole agreement, or just parts. With big changes, you should probably start over with a new written agreement. You can copy anything from the original into the new one.

Do not put your financial and personal agreements in one contract. If you fight about how to divide your assets or other financial obligations, you may need to file your agreement in court. Everything becomes public record. Anyone can review it.

You can make a "Power of Attorney." This would give your partner access to your income and assets. Then your partner can take care of matters on your behalf with third parties, such as your bank, mortgage lender, or utility company. A Power of Attorney can cover all, one, or a few financial matters. Use our Durable Power of Attorney Documents packet or talk to a lawyer.  

* Do not use a Power of Attorney in a short-term or uncommitted relationship.

Yes. It will affect some benefits (TANF). It may affect others (SSI and SSDI).

Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help. 

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Last Review and Update: Oct 19, 2023
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