According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of cohabitating unmarried couples in America has risen from 1 percent in the 1960s to 12 percent in 2011. That alone gives a reason for a new look at how unmarried couples in Maryland and elsewhere deal with issues such as money and property. There are many issues that must be considered when joining this type of partnership.
First of all, unmarried couples must understand the laws surrounding their situation. Without a will or trust, assets after death will not pass to the other; without a power of attorney, one member of the couple cannot make health care decisions for the other. For these reasons, it is suggested that estate planning be a part of the initial agreement to live together. With this, there could be a financial and medical power of attorney and a will or trust which can be drawn up by an estate planning attorney. Also, there can be an agreement similar to a prenuptial agreement between married couples which can be drawn up by family law attorneys; each person should have his or her own attorney to negotiate the agreement so that both sides are represented adequately.
Also, items such as who will claim and pay for tax deductible expenses, who pays which bills and who actually owns what can be addressed. A coparenting plan could be in place for unmarried couples who intend to raise a family. Twenty-two percent of children are born to unmarried parents and without a coparenting plan, there could be issues that present themselves involving the children that could land the couple in court for a resolution.
An attorney experienced in handling Maryland family law issues can help negotiate a cohabitation agreement that addresses all relevant financial issues. Each party is advised to retain separate counsel, and they can agree to incorporate an estate planning attorney in the discussions where circumstances necessitate. These steps can help ensure that unmarried couples won't end up in court in years to come to make the tough decisions that could have already been resolved.
Source: Time, "Unmarried Couples: How to Protect Your Finances", Farnoosh Torabi, Feb. 3, 2015