Living 50 Plus

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Financial pointers for older, unmarried couples

Moving in together is something typically associated with young couples, but more and more unmarried men and women over the age of 50 are choosing to cohabitate. According to an analysis of 2012 U.S. Census data conducted by the Performance Reference Bureau, roughly 10 percent of the 15.3 million opposite-sex unmarried cohabiting partners in the United States are between the ages of 55 and 64, while 15 percent are between the ages of 45 and 54.

Such figures indicate that living together as an unmarried couple is no longer exclusive to younger couples. The incentives for older, unmarried couples to cohabitate are similar to those for younger ones, but older couples should heed a few financial pointers before deciding to move in together.

* Iron out the financial details ahead of time. Young couples who move in together often do so as a precursor to getting married. Such couples do not typically have much in the way of financial assets and, as a result, do not need to come to any formal agreement regarding their finances. Older couples, however, might be bringing a more substantial financial portfolio into the relationship, and these finances can complicate matters. Before moving in together, older couples should document their finances and how household expenses, including a mortgage if one exists, will be paid. Decisions regarding who will receive the tax breaks you might be eligible for when paying a mortgage should also be considered. Documenting your financial situation can protect your assets should you break up. If these arrangements are not documented, unmarried couples who break up could find themselves in a contentious financial battle not unlike couples going through a divorce.

* Maintain some financial independence. Older, unmarried men and women who choose to cohabitate with their partners should still maintain some financial independence after moving in together. A joint checking or savings account might work down the road, but initially keep these accounts separate to avoid any disputes. Keep paying your own bills, including car payments and credit cards, at the onset as well.

* Update certain documents and policies. Upon your death, a partner with whom you cohabitate does not have the same legal rights of inheritance as would a spouse. As a result, it's important for unmarried individuals who cohabitate with their partners to update their wills, especially if they have been cohabitating for an extended period of time and want their partner to be taken care of in case of their death. In addition to updating information regarding beneficiaries, older men and women might want to update certain information regarding their health, like who should take legal responsibility for medical decisions should one partner become incapacitated.

In addition to updating your will, update any existing life insurance policies and retirement benefits to include your partner if you so desire.

* Discuss any changes with your family, especially any children. When you make changes to your will, those changes will affect your beneficiaries. Upon making these changes, discuss them with your existing beneficiaries so your partner does not have to deal with relatives whose feelings might be hurt upon your death. This might not be an easy discussion, but you will want your partner to have your family as a support system upon your death.

Older, unmarried couples are choosing to cohabitate more and more. While the incentives to doing so are numerous, there are some precautionary measures couples should take before moving in together.

Gadsden Times