Investopedia:  The estate-planning process should be an integral part of everyone's financial plan. The benefits are obvious, including tax savings, efficient disposition of assets, end-of-life decisions, financial security for heirs and general peace of mind.

For married couples, the planning rules are fairly straightforward. For unmarried couples, however, whether same-sex or opposite-sex, the issues concerning financial and estate planning are often quite complex, and the rules cumbersome. This article will highlight some key planning strategies that unmarried couples should consider in order to protect both partners. (To keep reading on this subject, see Marriage, Divorce And The Dotted Line, The Tax Benefits Of Having A Spouse and Relationship Money Matters.)

Background Statistics On Unmarried Couples

According to the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau, it is estimated that there are more than 5.5 million unmarried couples living together in the U.S., up from 3.2 million in 1990. Of the 5.5 million, it is estimated that 600,000 are same-sex couples, who for the most part can't get hitched even if they wanted to.

For the increasing number of couples unable to or unwilling to get married, financial planning is crucial to avoid unpleasant surprises. After all, when it comes to taxes and other financial benefits, we live in a society that provides benefits to those who wed and punishes those who don't. Until the system changes, here are a few tips you can use to protect not only yourself but your loved one as well in these four areas of your personal finance:

1. Account And Property Titling

The legal ownership of property or accounts can affect how they are distributed in the event of the owner's death. Each type has its own benefits and drawbacks.

Continue reading more estate planning basics for unmarried couples.