A “partnership agreement” is a contract between two people in a committed, but usually unmarried, relationship which makes clear the nature of that relationship and the rights and responsibilities of the partners. The most basic element of a partnership agreement is simply to make clear that these two people are not “just friends” or “simply roommates,” but rather, a couple. A partnership agreement can be as broad or as narrow as the couple wants, and can take into account any detail, no matter how minor or major it seems, which the couple determines is important to them.
Partnership Agreements and Property
A partnership agreement can spell out certain important details about how the partners relate to one another with respect to property. For example, if a couple owns their house together, but one partner owns a greater share than the other, it can be useful to spell this out in the partnership agreement to avoid misunderstandings about how the house is owned, or perhaps how proceeds from its sale will be divided. Alternatively, if one partner moves into the other’s home, and does not expect any sort of ownership interest to develop, it can be helpful to make that clear.
Partnership agreements can also be a useful way to identify particular property which each partner brings into the relationship and which they want to keep separate to some extent. For instance, if one partner has a family heirloom which they want to maintain in their own biological family, that object can be identified early on, decreasing the possibility of arguments over it later. Similarly, if a couple jointly makes an expensive purchase, a partnership agreement can be useful in documenting joint ownership and even specifying who will get it, or how it will be divided, in the event the relationship terminates. For that matter, a partnership agreement can also be used to identify how any purchases, joint or separate, made during the relationship can be split up: “In the event this relationship ends, A gets the stereo system, while B gets the big screen TV.” Partnership agreements can even specify that, if disagreements do emerge after the relationship ends, these disputes be submitted to mediation or arbitration in order to resolve the dispute.
Finally, partnership agreements can also be used to establish particular responsibilities each partner agrees to take on, such as the duty of one to pay rent to the other, or even expectations related to household tasks. If one partner has agreed to support the other, for example, while that partner completes their education, and expects repayment (or, for that matter, does not expect repayment), a partnership agreement might be a good place to spell out exactly what is involved.
The Importance of Individualization
Because partnership agreements are so tied to the specific circumstances of the couple involved, it is generally best for each couple to draft an agreement that reflects their individual situation. It must be in writing. At a minimum, it must be signed and dated by the partners. A couple drafting a partnership agreement should always consult with an attorney to have the document reviewed before it is signed.
This information is not intended to constitute or replace legal advice: always consult your attorney before drafting or signing documents which affect your legal rights.