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Should married couples have a joint will?

On Behalf of | May 28, 2024 | Estate Planning

Married couples often face the question of whether to have a joint will. A joint will is a single document that covers the wishes of both spouses.

It can seem like a simple and practical option, but there are important factors to consider before making this decision.

Advantages of a joint will

According to CNBC, 67% of Americans do not have an estate plan. A joint will can simplify the process of estate planning. It ensures that both spouses agree on how to distribute their assets. This unity can provide peace of mind and help avoid conflicts between family members. Having one document can also reduce paperwork and make the process more straightforward.

Drawbacks of a joint will

However, there are drawbacks to having a joint will. One issue is the lack of flexibility. Once one spouse passes away, the surviving spouse cannot change the terms of the will. This inflexibility can become problematic if circumstances change. For example, the surviving spouse might remarry or need to adjust the distribution of assets due to new family dynamics. A joint will does not easily accommodate such changes.

Complications in probate court

A joint will can cause complications in probate court. Probate is the legal process that validates a will and oversees the distribution of the deceased’s assets. With a joint will, probate might become more complex and time-consuming, particularly if the will’s terms are unclear or contested.

Customization with individual wills

Another point to consider is that individual wills offer more customization. Each spouse can address personal wishes and specific concerns. Each spouse can update individual wills more easily to reflect changes in life circumstances, such as the birth of a child or the acquisition of new property.

Emotional considerations

It is also important to think about the emotional aspect. Creating individual wills allows each spouse to express personal wishes and feelings. This process can be empowering and provide a sense of control over one’s legacy.

When putting together an estate plan, couples should carefully consider all available options.