What happens if I contribute to the purchase of a house which will be in my soon-to-be husband's name and he subsequently dies?
Question Details: My future husband is buying his parents' home in IA. I'm selling my home in NE and I will add 1/4 to the house where he is paying for 3/4 of the house. The house will be paid off when I add my contribution. My name will not be on the house. He already has a Will and some other legal documents already established. Let's say in 5-30 years he passes away. Will I be homeless since everything is willed to his children and my name isn't on the house? What happens to the percentage I added to the home. What happens to combined household purchases after we are married? What happens to the material items we each bring to the home? We are both in our 50's, we each have a 401K and life insurance that will go to our own children. The house is the struggle because I can't add what he can.
Yes: if you are not on the title and the home is willed to his children, you run the risk of being made homeless and of losing what you put into the home--investing in a property without being placed on the title does not in and of itself give you a right to or interest in the property, since the money can easily be seen by a court as being a gift to your spouse, or as payment of your ongoing living expenses (i.e. having a place to live), and not as something giving you a share of the property. Even if you were to find a judge who, looking broadly at the situation, concludes that you do have an interest in the home, do you want to have to litigate against your husband's children (and go to all that expense) to protect your rights?
You should be on the title to protect yourself. If not, at a minimum, you should be given a "life estate" in the home (or the right to live there for the remainder of your life, but not mortgage, encumber, or sell the property), while the house will then go to his children after you pass or move out (e.g to an assisted living community). There are other ways to protect you, too, but the key is, they require planning now and that affirmative steps be taken to protect you--simply not putting your name on the title or willing something to you, etc. is not a safe option.
The same idea applies to your phyiscal belongings: provision should be made to identify what is yours and to protect your right to it. You should speak with a trusts and estates attorney to discuss the various options (there are several) to make sure you are protected.