What is a Joint Will?
Whether you and your spouse are looking at estate planning options, you may be asking if you should get a joint will. Individual wills for married couples may be replaced by joint wills. So, what is a joint will, and how does it function? Is one better than the other, and how does it vary from an Individual Will? Continue reading to learn more.
What is the meaning of a Joint Will?
A joint will is a common legal document that is signed by two or more persons and acts as the participants’ final will and testament. Married couples with similar assets and beneficiaries sometimes utilize joint wills.
If you are unfamiliar with a Will, it is a form of estate planning instrument that specifies how your possessions will be distributed after your death. It is a legally binding technique of safeguarding your assets and ensuring that they are properly handed on to your loved ones. Wills come in a variety of forms, with joint wills being one of them.
To be clear, a joint will is not the same as a mutual will. A joint will is a singular document that is signed by both parties. A mutual will is made up of two independent wills that are virtually the same in substance but are signed separately.
How Do They Work?
Joint wills, like individual wills, specify how assets should be dispersed after your death. Joint wills, on the other hand, are unusual in that they are signed by two persons. This implies that both parties must be completely in agreement with the provisions of the will.
While both partners are alive, a joint will is revocable, which means it may be canceled or amended as long as both parties agree. When one of the partners dies, though, the joint becomes irreversible. This implies that it is irreversible; no one can alter or cancel the will beyond that moment.
When a married couple dies, the surviving spouse receives the whole inheritance. When the surviving spouse dies, the inheritance is divided among the beneficiaries named in the will. In most circumstances, the offspring of the married couple will be the beneficiaries. It is worth noting that when both spouses die, the estate must go through probate unless the pair had planned for the assets to be put into a joint trust.
Pros and Cons of a Joint Will vs. an Individual Will
For married couples with similar assets and beneficiaries, a joint will is a good alternative. This is particularly true if your estate is straightforward and you and your spouse agree on how your assets should be dispersed.
A joint will offer checks and balances in addition to simplicity. Without your partner’s approval, you can not make any modifications or rescind the will. This implies that if a marital disagreement emerges, the estate is shielded from impulsive choices. It also provides safety in the event of marital distrust or the possibility of foul play.
Anyone contemplating a joint should think about the possible drawbacks. When one of the partners dies, the joint becomes irreversible. This implies that the surviving spouse has no authority over the will or the distribution of the estate. If their circumstances change, this might be a huge issue. The surviving spouse, for example, might remarry and have additional children. They may have a falling out with their kid or find themselves in a situation where they need to sell their home quickly. Life is unpredictable, and rigidity frequently serves as a hindrance rather than a safeguard.
Is it necessary for a husband and wife to have separate Wills?
A husband and wife, in most situations, need separate wills. It is, on the contrary, strongly recommended. As previously said, joint wills are appropriate for certain couples, but not all. To begin with, not all states allow joint wills. Furthermore, a probate court may separate or invalidate a joint will. When one spouse dies, the will becomes irreversible, leaving the remaining spouse with no options. For maximum security, it is advised that each spouse have their own independent will.
When one person dies, what happens to a joint will?
When one person passes away, a joint becomes irreversible. As previously stated, this implies that the will cannot be altered, amended, or canceled. Even when circumstances change, the surviving spouse is bound by the provisions of the will. Let us look at a couple of circumstances when this may be a problem.
Let us imagine the surviving spouse is responsible for paying medical fees or elder care. In a crunch, many families use their house as a source of money. The surviving spouse cannot sell the family house to help fund their expenditures since it was included in the joint will. As you would expect, a joint will might put someone you care about in financial jeopardy.
Second, a joint will forbids the surviving spouse from modifying any of the provisions of the will, including the beneficiaries. To be clear, beneficiaries are the estate’s listed heirs, who are almost often the children. If a surviving spouse remarries after the demise, the new spouse is legally barred from inheriting any assets from the joint will. Any additional children or stepchildren cannot be added as beneficiaries by the surviving husband.
Last but not least, the surviving spouse is unable to influence the terms of wealth distribution. If a beneficiary develops a drug addiction, mental disease, or handicap, changing the provisions of a will is usually a smart idea. A parent, for example, could wish to set up a spendthrift trust so that their kid does not waste their inheritance. These adjustments are not possible since the joint will is irreversible at this stage.
Is it possible to make joint wills online?
Estate preparation is a very customized process, which is why there are so many different forms of wills. Our family structures, possessions, and other personal situations are all different. There is no such situation as a “one-size-fits-all” solution.
A joint will is a good alternative for married couples who have a little inheritance and totally agree on how assets should be distributed to their shared heirs. For mixed families or couples with unusual asset arrangements, however, they may not be the best option. Last but not least, remember that life is unpredictably unexpected. Because a joint will is irreversible or set in stone, if one spouse dies, it might become more of a barrier for the remaining family members than a measure of protection. Instead, you may wish to explore individual wills, mutual wills, and joint trusts.