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Cohabitation Disputes: What issues could 'The Addams Family' be facing in their macabre mansion?

The Addams Family, a household filled with family values, or a nightmarish arrangement destined to end in bloodcurdling litigation.  The family of Gomez and Morticia Addams, their children, Wednesday and Pugsley live together is an ornate Victorian mansion with Uncle Fester, Grandmama, the butler Lurch, Thing and, of course, Cousin Itt. 

Whilst this slightly bizarre family, with their macabre and sometimes frightening lifestyles might make for excellent television, it also provides for a litany of issues when it comes to the ownership/interests they may have in their beautifully gloomy home. 

It is assumed that the home is owned by Gomez and Morticia, who have graciously welcomed the extended family to reside with them, a seemingly generous and selfless gesture replicated by many families.

The question, however, is whether any discussions have taken place as to the role of the extended family and whether their living in the property gives rise to any interest which could embroil the Addams’ in dispute.

If it is assumed that Gomez and Morticia own the property, then any one of the other residents may try and assert an interest under a trust.  This may be an express trust, perhaps Gomez and Thing have got together and signed a written Declaration of Trust, or agreement declaring Thing’s interest in the property.  The express signing of the document would make it relatively easy for Thing to claw some money out of Gomez and Morticia.

Alternatively, Grandmama may be able to point to considerable financial contributions made towards the property from her vast wealth, along with funds needed to renovate such an old and most likely listed property. Perhaps she had helped to meet mortgage payments, fix leaking rooves or banish ghouls. Grandmama would need to prove that her contributions were made on the common intention that she would gain an interest or share in the property, ghouls and all. 

Lurch may argue that he was promised an interest in the property by way of payment for his role as butler to the family.  He may suggest that working for the family, free of charge, was done to his detriment and only on the basis that he was promised a share in the home.  His loyal service and the, at times, poor treatment of him may make it entirely unreasonable for Morticia and Gomez to deny him an interest in the property. Poor Lurch will argue that he relied on promises made by Morticia and Gomez to his detriment, on the understanding that his loyalty would be rewarded. 

Whilst these claims would be challenging, particularly for Grandmama and Lurch (given that they have no written agreement) they are possible and, if nothing else could cause Gomez and Morticia severe headaches and monstrous legal fees.  They may even decide to try and compromise the claims by offering some sort of payment to the family.

Clearly a generous offer to share their home could become nightmarish for Morticia and Gomez.  Although it may make for uneasy conversations, the only way to avoid such ghoulish outcomes is to have open and frank discussions with cohabitees.  The most appropriate device to manage the arrangement would be a cohabitation agreement and although this may appear heavy handed it can help to avoid chilling conflicts later down the line. 

So, this Halloween don’t let cohabitation issues fester and risk becoming embroiled in fearsome litigation - reach out for advice on a cohabitation agreement to regulate how you share your property.