When planning your estate, you may wonder if it is a good idea to sign a joint will with your spouse. You love your spouse and want to share everything with him or her – why not make your wills together? Though joint wills once were widely used and popular, the major problems they create should deter you from making one.
What Is a Joint Will?
A joint will is a creature of convenience that many people used before modern technology became available. It saved a lot of time (and handwriting or typewriting) to list a married couple’s wishes in one document instead of two. Both of the spouses would sign the will, and it would dispose of all their property.
What Are the Disadvantages of a Joint Will?
Joint wills have many disadvantages, including:
- Both spouses must agree to any changes to the will;
- Both spouses must execute the will if it they modify it; and
- If the will is worded improperly, the surviving spouse may not benefit from the other spouse’s property.
Importantly, the surviving spouse cannot change the will after the other spouse dies. Once one spouse dies, both spouses are not able to agree to any modifications. This could seriously hinder the surviving spouse from carrying out his or her wishes. For example, the surviving spouse may remarry and want to leave money to his or her new spouse or stepchildren. This would be impossible with a joint will. So would disinheriting someone listed in the joint will.
Alternatives to a Joint Will
Couples today often have separate property. Many people have children from a previous relationship. Others have individual ties to charities or organizations not shared with their spouse. All this means that spouses often have different wishes incompatible with a joint will.
One option instead of a joint will is each spouse forming a trust that benefits the other spouse. You also might consider beneficiary designations on life insurance or retirement accounts leaving the payouts to each other. Of course, each spouse should make a separate will too.
Want to start planning your estate? Local attorney Andrew Szocka, Esq. provides thorough and speedy estate planning help in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. online or call the office at (815) 455-8430.