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Moving in with your partner? Why you should have a 'no-nup'

An increasing number of couples in Maryland and throughout the country are deciding to live together instead of or before getting married. Without a marriage certificate, if you're combining your finances and sharing a home, there are some practical matters that you need to work out. Many certified financial planners as well as attorneys recommend that unmarried couples who decide to share a household draft a "no-nuptial agreement" or "no-nup." It's similar to a prenuptial agreement drawn up by engaged couples before they wed.

A no-nuptial agreement can include whatever the couple chooses. It can address details such as who pays which household bills. If the couple buys a house together, it can specify what happens with the home if they break up. It's also a good idea to detail which of your assets are jointly-owned and which are individual. Basically, like a prenup, it details how property and other assets will be divided if the two go their separate ways.

A no-nup is also an opportunity to designate what you want your partner to have if you die. Co-habitating people don't have many of the automatic rights to benefits that married couples have. This includes Social Security benefits and retirement plan benefits.

This may also be a good time to draft or amend your will and other estate planning documents if you want your partner to make healthcare and end-of-life decisions for you and if you want him or her to receive all or part of your estate if you pass away. If your family law attorney doesn't handle estate planning, he or she can recommend someone who does.

When a couple decides to live together, it's understandable that these are not the things they want to think about. However, the longer you live together, the more intertwined your finances will become. Therefore, it's wise to set some parameters at the beginning. If you go on to marry, the no-nup agreement may become a basis for your prenup.

It's not just young couples who live together. Many older people prefer to cohabitate rather than marry again. Often, they bring considerable assets to a relationship. It's important to spell out just what belongs to whom, how the expenses will be divided and make amendments to your estate plan if necessary. A Maryland attorney can help you work out an agreement that suits your particular circumstances.

Source: USA Today, "Forget prenups: Unmarried couples today need 'no nups'," Charisse Jones, accessed Jan. 06, 2016

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