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Why should you have a 'no nup?'

It's not uncommon for couples to eschew the wedding vows and live together as an unmarried but committed couple, sometimes for many decades. However, if you're going to cohabitate with someone, whether it's as a first step to marriage or as a more permanent arrangement, it's essential to protect yourself financially in the event that the relationship ends or one of you passes away.

Unmarried partners in relationships aren't entitled to a number of benefits, like Social Security, that married couples are under the law, and North Carolina doesn't recognize "common law" marriages, no matter how long a couple has been together. Therefore, if a relationship ends, whether due to a break-up or death, one partner could find him- or herself in serious financial jeopardy.

Further, if you and your partner have purchased assets together, such as a house or car, and combined your incomes for household expenses, sorting out what belongs to whom if you go your separate ways can be a nightmare.

That's why many attorneys and financial advisers recommend that before people move in together, they draw up what's commonly called a "no nup." It serves many of the same purposes as a prenuptial agreement. It stipulates how property, money and other assets are divided if the relationship ends.

For many couples, it also helps facilitate a discussion of finances that everyone should have before they start their lives together, whether in a marriage or not. If you do eventually get married, your no nup can be an excellent blueprint for your prenup.

If this is a serious relationship, you may also want to consider developing or updating your estate plan to help ensure that your partner will receive the assets you'd like him or her to have if something should happen to you. An estate plan can also allow you to designate your partner as your financial and/or health care power of attorney. This will allow him or her to make decisions on your behalf if you're not able to do so. It can also help prevent conflicts with family members who may want to make these decisions, regardless of your wishes.

Some attorneys handle family law issues like no nups as well as estate planning. However, it's always best if each person has his or her own attorney to ensure that his or her individual interests are represented and protected in all legal documents.

Source: USA Today, "Forget prenups: Unmarried couples today need 'no nups'," Charisse Jones, accessed Nov. 20, 2016

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