How Your Relationship Status Can Affect Your Insurance
Published: January 10, 2017
Updated: March 23, 2021
by Michele Lerner
Your particular insurance needs depend, in part, on who you live with and your relationship to them. Most changes to your relationship status will warrant an insurance policy update.
If you don’t update that information, your insurance company may have incomplete information about who’s sharing your home or your car, and you may have too little or too much coverage.
Insurance Needs for Single or Single with Roommates
Whether you rent or own, whether you live alone or with roommates, you should have an insurance policy to cover your home and possessions, as well as the necessary car insurance. Your guests, your roommates, and their guests can all cause damage to your home or car (and so can you, for that matter).
If you’re living with roommates, your insurance company may want you to add your roommates to your car insurance policy, just in case they drive your car and end up in a crash. Be sure to check with your insurance company. The last thing you want is for your roommate to cause damage to your car that your insurance won’t cover.
If you’re renting, the person on the lease typically purchases the renters insurance. If both your names are on the lease, you’ll need separate renters insurance policies. Most insurance companies will not write one policy for unrelated friends.
If one name isn’t on the lease and that person doesn’t have a policy, the possessions they keep in the home are likely still covered by the policyholder’s insurer.
Yet, any possessions lost, destroyed or damaged outside of the home may not be covered . If this person’s phone is stolen while they’re out, for instance, it wouldn’t be covered.
To have the off-premises possessions covered, the policy-holder would have to buy an insurance endorsement to provide their roommate with off-premises possessions and liability protection.
If one person has bought a place and the other roommates are paying rent to them—think Blanche and the other Golden Girls—the owner should get a homeowners insurance or condo insurance policy and the renters should each get a renters insurance policy.
Insurance Coverage for Unmarried Partners
Nearly every state requires insurance companies to recognize and provide coverage to domestic partnerships, but whether you need to register officially as domestic partners depends on the insurance company. Each insurance company might require something different to confirm the domestic partnership. If you or your significant other are not domestic partners, you may need to buy separate insurance policies, the way roommates would.
Sharing your home with someone doesn’t necessarily mean that you are sharing your car with that person; but if you are, you’ll need to update your car insurance.
You should discuss your driving record with your partner. If one of you has a bad driving record, their premiums could be higher. For this reason, the two of you may want to keep your auto insurance policies separate. But, you might be eligible for a discount if you combine your car insurance policies into one.
If you are cohabitating and registered as domestic partners, it’s required to have both names on the home insurance.
Insurance Options for Married Couples
Once someone becomes married, this means they will usually begin to share assets with their spouse, like a home and car. It is important to know what you need to do to ensure your assets together are protected at all times.
Once you get married, you and your spouse need to be on the same car insurance policy, says Teresa Wharton, an account executive for CBIZ Insurance Services in Cumberland, Maryland. This way, if one of you drives the other’s car and gets into an accident, you’ll still be covered. And, you’ll likely receive a discount for combining policies.
If your spouse has a terrible driving record, this could dramatically increase your insurance premiums. In some states, such as California, you could exclude your spouse from your car insurance by adding a named driver exclusion endorsement to your policy.
The excluded driver wouldn’t be allowed to drive your car. If they did, and then needed to make an insurance claim, your insurance company wouldn’t be required to pay the claim.
Some states, such as New York and Virginia, don’t allow you to exclude anyone in a household from your policy.
The moment you get married, your spouse is covered by your homeowners, renters or condo insurance, so long as your spouse lives in the household with you. You should still inform your insurance carrier of the good news.
Make sure that you reevaluate your coverage to determine whether it’s enough to protect any additional possessions. If, for example, the engagement ring and wedding bands are worth more than what your valuable items insurance will cover, then consider adding extra coverage for those items.
Insurance Changes After Separation or Divorce
Becoming recently separated or divorced is challenging time for couples. Understanding the necessary steps in updating your insurance coverages will help reassure that all assets will be protected properly.
You’ll also need to get a new title issued for your car if both spouses were previously listed as owners. “If there’s an accident, the other driver will go after the car owner, not the driver,” warns Wharton.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on a resolution for your car, you may need to negotiate this through the divorce court. “You can’t just remove your ex from the insurance policy, either, because most insurance companies want a signature from each person to acknowledge the change,” adds Wharton
Note that your car insurance discounts may disappear, particularly those tied to multiple drivers and vehicles.
If you are married but separated—meaning that you no longer share the household with your spouse but are not officially divorced—you are no longer considered an insured on the policy.
If you still have possessions at the home you shared with your spouse, but there’s a fire in the house that causes damage to your possessions, your spouse will receive the reimbursement check for those damages, not you. So, if you move out, take your belongings with you.
If you and your spouse are divorcing and one spouse is keeping the home, the other will need to sign a quit claim so that the deed to the home can be reissued in the sole owner’s name.
“The homeowners insurance policy is tied to the deed to the property, so if both spouses’ names are on the deed, you can’t just remove them from the insurance policy,” explains Wharton.
Insurance Next Steps for People Who Are Recently Widowed
The death of a spouse can be one of the most difficult life experiences many of us will ever have to face. It’s a huge adjustment. Knowing that you have the protection you need, and are not paying for coverage you don’t, may help provide some peace of mind.
If your spouse is named on the policy, you’ll need to change the policy to your name only. This can be done immediately — even if you need to re-register the car and haven’t done so yet. (Check with your state Motor Vehicle Department to verify requirements.)
If you plan to keep your spouse’s car, you’ll need to know when you should keep full coverage and when you can suspend it. It will be important to understand who can drive the car and be fully covered in case of an accident.
If you do sell the car, let your insurance company know on what date that will take place. They can stop your coverage at the right time, and you won’t wind up paying insurance on a car you no longer own.
If you have one car, and your spouse was the only licensed driver, you may decide to keep that car and arrange for someone to drive you occasionally. In that case, your insurance company will explain how to handle the insurance.
Even if your spouse’s name is still on the deed to the home, it should be removed from your insurance policy.
If you decide to establish joint ownership of your home with a son or daughter, it may be appropriate to list your child’s name, along with yours, on the policy. There’s a difference in how this is handled; it depends on whether the son or daughter lives with you. Talk to your agent or insurance company so you can be confident the policy is written for your specific needs.
If you plan to sell your home, or if you’ll be moving from a house to a condo or apartment—talk to your agent or insurance company. They can help ensure you have the coverages you need for your new situation.
Sometimes a house in transition remains vacant (which means there is nothing in it, not just that it’s unoccupied) for a significant period of time. Be sure to tell your insurance company if this is or will be your situation. It’s important that your home is covered, even if it’s empty.
Umbrella insurance policies increase liability coverage for both your homeowners and car insurance policies. As with your other policies, you should review your umbrella insurance policy during any life change. If you combine households, you may need more coverage, but after a divorce, you may need less coverage.
Whenever you go through life-altering events it’s a good time to reassess your insurance coverage.