Tag: wife

Is It a Good Idea to Sign a Joint Will with Your Spouse?

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.

Updating Your Estate Plan After Marriage

After you get married, you may need to make substantial updates to your estate plan. Marriage changes many parts of people’s lives, including their need to plan for the future in different ways.

How Could Marriage Change Your Estate Plan?

As you celebrate the beginning of a new marriage, you also might think about protecting your spouse in case anything happens to you. If you plan to have children or have new stepchildren due to the marriage, you probably want to protect them too.

Estate plans made before marriage most likely do not include future spouses or children. As a result, your new husband, wife, or partner might not inherit anything from your estate if you passed away unexpectedly. While spouses and children omitted from a will may inherit part of an estate in some cases, there are no guarantees. It provides more peace of mind to revise your will and other estate planning structures.

Will Your New Spouse Inherit Even If You Don’t Change Your Estate Plan?

In Illinois, an “omitted” spouse who married a deceased person after his or her will was signed and who is not included in the will might still inherit. The law may allow the spouse to make a claim against the estate, requiring the estate executor to distribute part of the assets to the spouse and reducing the amount that other heirs will receive. However, if the will explicitly omits the spouse, then the omitted spouse law may not apply. If any language in the will says that a spouse will not receive anything, then the probate court could decide that the deceased person disinherited the spouse on purpose.

Which Parts of Your Estate Plan Do You Need to Update?

You should review your entire estate plan shortly after marriage to see if you need to make any changes. This includes your will, powers of attorney, medical directives, trusts, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, business succession plans, guardianship designations, and any other documents relating to the future. You and your spouse may want to visit an estate planning attorney (either the one who made your original estate plan or someone new). The attorney can advise you on any new legal issues that arise with your marriage, such as potential estate taxes or need for different language in the legal documents.

Want to update your estate plan? 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.

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