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The Moneyist: I offered my son $30K for a down payment on a home. His fiancée wants a written agreement for my gift to be split 50/50

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Dear Moneyist,

My 29-year-old son is engaged to be married in June 2021. He is living with his fiancée in a small one-bedroom rental. About a month ago, I told them that I would like to help them purchase a house by giving them money to help with their down payment. Perhaps $30,000 or more.

Their lease ends in January 2021, and winter is generally a good time to purchase a house. I encouraged them to start researching neighborhoods, various cities in the area, etc.

However, because they are not married, I said that money would at first go to my son. That caused a firestorm with his fiancée, who through my son said that she wanted a written agreement that if they were to break up and divorce in the future, she wanted 50% of the gift.

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She said her parents agreed with her that “she should protect herself”. Her parents have been divorced, and reportedly their primary residence down payment had been financed partially by her mother’s father. When they divorced her mother retained that portion.

My son had already agreed that any house they buy would be split 50/50 in case they divorced, even though he would essentially supply the rest of the down payment, as she is still paying off student debt and has little savings.

I have no problem with what my son wants to do, but find it hard to believe she wants a written agreement that she is entitled to 50% of the gift if they divorce.

Not only that, but reportedly because of this they have completely stopped even looking at homes because they are so discouraged by this situation. They have enough to purchase a house, though maybe one not as expensive as one they could buy with our help, and they do not have enough to put 20% down. My future daughter-in-law has also stated that because of this, she would feel that she would just be a “renter”.

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In addition, she is adamant about never having children. As a professional woman who will not have children to support or raise, she should be capable of supporting herself in case they do divorce.

Not wishing to lose my son, I told them that I would give them $30,000 for their use to do as they please, but I would not sign any agreement.

It just seems so strange that a woman who is contemplating marriage is so concerned about her finances in case their marriage ends, even though she is perfectly capable of supporting herself.

What are your thoughts?

Completely flabbergasted

Dear Flabbergasted,

Your son is marrying this woman. You are not.

For that reason, I agree with the major part of your letter, and I disagree with a relatively minor part.

It’s certainly an unorthodox request. Let’s put it that way, shall we? (If this was an SMS, I’d insert a perplexed emoji here.) You only need to be comfortable with the knowledge that this $30,000 will enable your son to buy a home he wants.

What happens to that home and that money after it lands in his bank account is his business. He can do what he wants.

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But being asked to sign a document to split that $30,000 50/50 when it’s to be used for their home is surprising. (Insert another emoji here.)

I don’t agree that whether your future daughter-in-law decides to have a baby or not should determine her income or her profession. If they do divorce, once again that will be her affair to live her life as she sees fit with half of the home they purchase together.

Your daughter-in-law should ask your son to sign a document, not you, and your son will sign a document very soon.

The document he will sign? His marriage certificate.

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You can email The Moneyist with any financial and ethical questions related to coronavirus at qfottrell@marketwatch.com. Want to read more?Follow Quentin Fottrell on Twitterand read more of his columns here.

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