The number of opposite-sex couples living together jumped 13% this year to 7.5 million. In fact, researchers estimate that half of all married couples now live together before they get married. Why? Some blame the sluggish job market, but others suggest that couples who choose to live together frequently do so to avoid what they consider “legal hassles,” especially those associated with a potential break-up. However, the truth is that for unmarried couples who break-up, the fall-out can be worse than a messy divorce. USA Today suggests that unmarried couples face a number of thorny legal challenges, to include buying a home, obtaining health care, and estate planning. Estate planning is particularly imperative for unmarried couples because if you die without a will, your estate will be divided according to state law, which usually does not recognize a domestic partner. Family members you have not spoken to in decades could inherit everything you own. Additionally, while a surviving spouse can inherit an unlimited amount of assets estate tax-free, this protection does not extend to domestic partners. There are ways to protect your estate and your partner, but you’ll need qualified legal counsel to pull it off.