Can My Spouse and I Draft a Joint Will for Estate Planning?
On Behalf of O’Brien Law Firm, LLC
Posted on: January 24, 2023
A joint will is often drafted by married couples to distribute their assets and properties. Couples usually have the same goals for the future and hence agree on a joint will. However, while it is possible to get a joint will for estate planning, lawyers mostly advise against it.
Joint will have specific rules that state if one of the spouses dies, the assets and estate automatically go to the surviving spouse. And when the second spouse dies, the estate goes to their children. Married couples find this way of estate planning easier and cheaper because they do not want two separate wills when they both have the same goals for the future.
Problems With Joint Wills
The most common problem that arises with joint wills is that they cannot be changed after one spouse dies. In most cases, the surviving spouse does not have the power to change or alter the will without the second spouse. Whatever happens after one spouse’s death, the rules of the estate plan will remain the same.
Even if the surviving spouse remarries, they cannot include their children from the second marriage in the joint will. Similarly, they cannot remove anyone from the inheritance or sell the estate or the assets. It does not matter if the spouse wants to sell some part of the estate to meet their living expenses during hard times; a ‘joint will’ cannot be altered.
The living spouse cannot add executors or beneficiaries in the joint will. The beneficiaries that were born after the joint will was decided cannot also be included. The time for inheritance is also fixed and cannot be changed if one of the spouses has passed away.
Apart from that, joint wills are not legal in some countries. Many courts and judges often separate the joint will for both spouses or declare the whole joint will invalid in some states. And in many cases, the assets and properties get tied up in the joint will for years. This can cause many problems for the living spouse.