With this ring, I thee … lease?
posted at 3:07 pm on August 13, 2013 by Ed Morrissey
Or rent, depending on the contract term. I missed this op-ed from Palm Beach attorney Paul Rampell last weekend proposing the idea of “wedleases,” a pseudo-matrimonial contractual relationship that has an expiration date as part of the package, but NPR picked up on it today:
In real estate, one may own a life estate in a piece of property. This is comparable to the term of a marriage — a lifetime. And in real estate, one may hold possession of property for shorter terms through a lease.
Why don’t we borrow from real estate and create a marital lease? Instead of wedlock, a “wedlease.”
Here’s how a marital lease could work: Two people commit themselves to marriage for a period of years — one year, five years, 10 years, whatever term suits them. The marital lease could be renewed at the end of the term however many times a couple likes. It could end up lasting a lifetime if the relationship is good and worth continuing. But if the relationship is bad, the couple could go their separate ways at the end of the term. The messiness of divorce is avoided and the end can be as simple as vacating a rental unit.
A marital lease could describe the property of the spouses in detail, so separate ownership is clear. If a couple wishes to buy something together, or share ownership, they can keep a schedule of these items and decide as they go along how these would be disposed of in the event of a partner’s death or if they do not renew their wedlease. Landlords and tenants have proved the effectiveness of making clear their separate property and its disposition at the end of property leases.
You know what else works well for those kinds of property arrangements? Prenuptial contracts. Properly executed, they do exactly what Rampell proposes here, only without the oddball time-limited commitment. For that matter, cohabiting couples can create this kind of partnership contract, complete with time limits, without the creation of “wedleases.”
Plus, this doesn’t actually solve the problem Rampell wants to address. What happens when one partner wants to break a “lease” at two years, rather than for the agreed five-year term? Does the lessee still get, er, possession of the property, or do you need to go to court for an eviction? Couples with enough of a commitment issue to engage in a “wedlease” aren’t terribly likely to stick around to the expiration date when things get tough, which means courts will have to intervene, especially if one party decides not to honor the commitment, the same as happens with marriages and prenups now.
Addendum: What about those men and women who aren’t too keen on leases or ownership? Should we create the “wedloan”?
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