Financial planning is really important for all couples, but same-sex couples often face unique challenges and considerations. Whether you’re newlyweds or have been together for years, understanding how to navigate the financial landscape is key to building a secure future together. Here are five key aspects of financial planning that you and your partner should keep in mind.

1. Know your legal rights and protections

Since the legalization of same-sex marriage across the United States in 2015, married same-sex couples have the same legal rights and protections as heterosexual couples. This includes tax benefits, social security survivor benefits, and estate planning advantages. If you’re not married, it’s important to understand that many of these protections don’t apply. Unmarried couples should consider legal contracts like domestic partnership agreements to put a level of legal protection in place to cover things like assets and decision-making.

2. Joint vs. separate finances

One of the first decisions you’ll need to make as a couple is whether to merge your finances or not. Combining incomes and sharing bank accounts can simplify the management of shared expenses, like housing, utilities, and groceries. It can also contribute to a stronger feeling of partnership, for some couples. But some couples may choose to keep their finances separate or adopt a hybrid approach—maintaining both joint and individual accounts. Discuss your financial styles, personal preferences, and long-term goals to decide what type of setup will work best for your relationship.

3. Estate planning is super important

Estate planning is a critical part of financial planning for any couple, but it holds particular importance for same-sex couples. It makes sure your assets are distributed according to your wishes after death. Be sure to have up-to-date wills, and think about establishing a trust to manage your assets for your designated heirs. Also make sure your retirement accounts and insurance policies are current, that they reflect the right beneficiaries. Powers of attorney and healthcare directives are also critical; they give your partner the right to make decisions on your behalf if you’re unconscious or otherwise unable to make them yourself.

4. Plan for retirement together

Retirement planning is another area where cooperative planning pays off. Discuss your retirement goals and expectations openly. Are you hoping to retire at the same time? What kind of lifestyle do you both want to have in retirement? Coordinate your savings efforts and take advantage of retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s—especially if your employer offers matching contributions. Consider whether spousal IRAs or other joint retirement strategies could be beneficial. Regular reviews of your retirement plan will help confirm that you’re on track to reach your shared goals.

5. Prepare for the unexpected

Life is full of uncertainties, and effective financial planning means being prepared for unexpected events. This includes having an emergency fund that can cover several months of living expenses. Insurance is another important area—evaluate your need for health, life, disability, and long-term care insurance. These policies provide a safety net for illness, disability, or death, helping protect the surviving partner and family financially. For same-sex couples, it’s especially important to confirm that both partners are adequately protected and officially recognized in each policy.