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Non-married couples should plan ahead to protect assets

Plano residents who are living with their partner, but are not currently married, may be wondering what happens to joint property in the event of a split. Splitting with a partner is often painful, regardless of whether the couple is married or not. However, as painful as divorce may be, it at least offers a fairly defined path to splitting assets. Couples who live together without being married are often left in a murky situation.

Divorce experts often advise couples to draft a property pre-nup. This document clearly states who will receive which major assets in the event of a split and its enforcement can save stress and money. Assets could include cars, homes and even pets. By drafting a property pre-nup ahead of time, a couple could avoid costly and lengthy civil litigation to determine ownership of the assets.

Experts also caution couples to maintain financial independence until marriage. That means keeping separate accounts and coming to an agreement on which major purchases belong to whom. One expert points out that a joint account provides equal access to both partners. That means that one partner could empty the account in the event of a split. While it may feel inconvenient to keep money and purchases separate, experts say it could save money and aggravation later.

If a couple fails to take these steps, experts advise approaching the split without emotion. That may be difficult, but it's often necessary to protect one's assets in post-split negotiations or litigation. A family law attorney may be able to advise an individual on how best to protect their assets before moving in with their partner or after a split. The attorney may be able to draft a property pre-nup or represent the individual in settlement negotiations or property litigation.

Source: Main Street, "Splitting Up Your Finances After You Split", Nicholas Pell, December 18, 2013

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