If my significant other dies and my name is not on ownership of the house we live in, can I lose the house?

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If my significant other dies and my name is not on ownership of the house we live in, can I lose the house?

My significant other is 75 and I am 51. He wants to move to my home state of
Montana and buy a house there. I have two daughters who are 11 and 14. My SO
wants all of us to live in the house but he refuses to put my name on it. Can I
lose the house if he passes away? Could my daughters and I be left homeless?

Asked on August 12, 2017 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Since you call him a significant other (SO), not a spouse, we assume you are not married. If that is the case, then you will have no right to the home if you are not on the title and he does not will it to you--i.e.  a SO gives you no legal rights to or interest in the home. Significant other is not a legally recognized relationship.
Furthermore, while he *could* will it to you, bear in mind that he does not have to do this; he does not have to show his will; he could make a will leaving the home to you, then change or invalidate it; etc. That is, a will is only weak protection; the only way to be certain of getting the home and having a place to live is to be on the title.  So yes, your daughter and you could be left homeless.
Note that if his concern is that he wants the home to ultimately go to his family (e.g. any prior children, a sibling, a niece/nephew, etc.), he could at the least give you a "life estate" in the home; that would give you the right to live there for the balance of your life, with it then going to his family (whomever he designates) after you die (or after you voluntarily move out, including to, say, an assisted living community one day in the future). So he could protect you while not giving you a full equal share in the home; this is something a real estate attorney could help the two of you with.
If he won't give any rights to the home, if you move in with him, make sure you have sufficient savings and income to rent or buy your own place when he passes.


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