Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2013, 5:31 pm
Cohabitation doesn't confer 'married' filing status
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By Bruce Williams
DEAR BRUCE: My boyfriend and I recently bought a home together. I was married previously and itemized my taxes for years with the previous home I owned.
But now with this house, which is in both of our names, who gets to itemize? Can we file taxes as a married couple, even though we are not legally married? -- Reader, via email
DEAR READER: To answer your last question first, no, you cannot file as a married couple if you're not married.
I have stated many times I am not in favor of unmarried people buying a home together. As you know, since you're divorced, it's difficult enough to settle these matters when you are married. The law is so deficient on matters regarding unmarried couples as to militate against buying a home together as you did.
Depending on your income, it may or may not pay you to itemize. If you do, you can claim half of the interest paid on the mortgage. It may be that one or the other of you is better off with the standard deductions. If there's any question in your mind, see a tax professional.
DEAR BRUCE: My husband and I are in our 70s. It's a second marriage for both of us, as our previous spouses are deceased. When we married, we agreed in a prenuptial that what each of us brought to the marriage, we would keep in case of a divorce.
Since then, my husband sold a piece of property and bought the house we now live in. His will states that if he should die, the home we now live in goes to me for as long as I live and then to his children.
We had it notarized and signed by two witnesses. My question is, since it was not done by a lawyer, can there ever be a problem with the will? -- S.J., via email
DEAR S.J.: I have no problem with giving you life rights on the home. It is appropriate and proper. That having been observed, making these changes to his will without the help of a professional is foolish. The fact that you had it notarized and witnessed can mean little, if anything.
This could affect you for many, many years. Why not do it the smart way and have an attorney draw a proper will conveying life rights, etc.? You will both sleep better, and this way there will be no burden on his children to make concessions to you that otherwise they might prefer not to make.
(Send questions to email@example.com or to Smart Money, P.O. Box 7150, Hudson, FL 34674. Questions of general interest will be answered in future columns. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)