The answer depends on the ownership status of the home. If one spouse owns the home, then joint names are optional; however, if the home is owned collectively, the policy must include both names.
The policy owner can designate anyone eligible for inclusion as a named insured. Eligible individuals generally include the home’s owner(s) and any family members living at the residence. Most carriers automatically include spouses on the policy, whether or not they are included on the deed or mortgage.
For example, the language in some homeowners policies reads: “In this policy, ‘you’ and ‘your’ refer to the “named insured” shown in the Declarations and the spouse if a resident of the same household.” This makes the spouse’s inclusion automatic even if he or she is never formally listed.
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What About Live-In Partners?
The issue is more complicated when a couple lives together unmarried, and one spouse owns the home. In that case, the partner may or may not qualify for inclusion in the policy. It depends on the insurer.
If your insurer disallows non-married partners on the policy, the non-owner spouse receives no coverage. In this case, his or her personal property remains ineligible for coverage under the insurance. In addition, the non-owner partner has no liability coverage, so if he or she causes some type of injury to another while on the property, any liability claim is likely to face denial.
The solution is for the non-owner partner to purchase a renters insurance policy. Even though the non-owner partner may not pay rent, they are still eligible for this type of policy. They are designed for non-owners and extend coverage to that person’s property and liability.
What If a Spouse Moves in After Marriage?
In some cases, one spouse owns a home before the marriage. If the couple plans to live in that home after the nuptials, the policyholder needs to contact the insurance company to have the spouse placed on the policy. The process is usually painless but may require some basic personal information. Rates often stay the same, but if your spouse has a long claims history, they may increase.
Adding the spouse to the policy is important because being named on the policy is necessary for him or her to file a claim or initiate changes to the policy.
Not having a spouse on the policy can wreak havoc if the policy owner is unable to file a claim. For example, if the policyholder is out of town when a covered peril strikes, the other spouse can file a claim right away.
Adjusting Personal Property Coverage
When a spouse moves in, he or she may bring a large amount of personal property, such as furniture, electronics, and sports equipment. Depending on the quantity and value of the property, you may need to adjust your personal property coverage. For example, if your current limits are $100,000 and your spouse brings $100,000 worth of personal property, you need to raise your limits to at least $200,000; otherwise, in a serious disaster, your personal property coverage may fail to replace all of your losses.
It can be tricky to determine how much personal property protection you need after a spouse moves. Creating a new home inventory list can be helpful. By taking stock of what is in the home before and after the spouse moves in, you will know how much adjustment your personal property coverage needs.
Getting married is an exciting event. If you purchase a home afterward, most policies explicitly state that spouses are included whether they are formally placed on the paperwork. However, some insurers refuse to place unmarried partners on the policy unless they are legal co-owners, often necessitating a renters insurance policy. When your relationship status changes, it’s important to update your insurance policies.