A Will is one of the most crucial legal documents you can have in place. It allows you to help protect your loved ones, establish who gets your assets, designate donations and property distribution, and make other critical decisions for after your passing.
If you are married or in a domestic partnership, you may wonder what is the best type of Will for married couples. Should you both have an individual Will, create a Joint Will, or have both in place? Don’t worry—we will answer some of your most pressing questions here.
What is a Joint Will?
Like an individual Will, a Joint Will outlines how you want your assets to be distributed after you die. But a Joint Will also includes another person: your spouse or domestic partner. Couples use a Joint Will when they want to leave their assets to each other instead of other people. When one partner dies, the surviving spouse will inherit the entire estate; after their death, the estate will go to other beneficiaries who are designated in the Joint Will.
A Joint Will lets each partner in the relationship have their own separate document. Additionally, a Joint Will is revocable if you and your partner both agree to make changes. Once one partner passes away, the Joint Will becomes irrevocable, meaning the terms are now set in stone.
Are Joint Wills the right option for a married couple?
It’s best to discuss your unique situation with your significant other before you and your partner assume that a Joint Will is the best option for you both. A Joint Will may be the right choice for your relationship if you both share the same property and family members, such as children who will be beneficiaries. If you are both able to easily agree on big decisions about assets together, then a Joint Will may work for you.
What if you and your partner get into a big argument? A Joint Will is irrevocable unless both you and your partner agree to make the changes. That means that, if either you or your spouse gets angry and wants to make a rash decision to change the Will, you are not able to do so behind your spouse’s back. You and your partner can rest easy knowing that, whatever happens, your Will is untouchable unless you each agree to alter it.
Does marriage override a Will?
Let’s say you already have a Will in place before you get married. Once you are married, your Will does not automatically change. No lawyer or layperson is going to update your Will to reflect your new marriage status, unless you decide you want to do so yourself.
Other Wills a married couple should consider
Debating if a Joint Will is the best type of Will for your situation? You may also want to know about some other types of Wills that you have the option to create if valid in your state.
- Mirror Will: You and your spouse will each create a Will, both of which are identical to each other in nearly every way. The main benefit of a Mirror Will is that you and your partner can tailor your Wills specifically to your needs. This is especially helpful if you and your partner happen to pass away at the same time.
- Oral Will: An Oral Will is spoken aloud instead of written down. This is handy if you and your spouse find yourselves in an emergency situation where you don’t have time to write down your wishes. But an Oral Will could be hard to prove in court. An Oral Will is also only valid for small, simple estates.
- Holographic Will: Perhaps you or your spouse have handwritten your Wills and signed them together. You don’t have to have a witness or see a lawyer to create a Holographic Will. Just remember that since a Holographic Will is not witnessed, it could be contested in court later.
- Living Will: A Living Will is used to specify your end-of-life wishes such as life support, desired medical treatment, and people you want making important decisions on your behalf. A Living Will can help protects your loved ones from having to fight about end-of-life choices if you become incapacitated.
Need legal help with your Will decisions?
It is essential to have a lawyer’s help as you navigate the estate planning process. Though you may be able to create your Will and sign it yourself (like in a Holographic Will), you don’t want to navigate the tricky ins and outs of Will creation without a lawyer’s assistance. Your LegalShield provider law firm can explain legal terms to you and suggest the best ways for you to get the most out of your new or updated Will. If you and your partner are ready to draft a Joint Will or explore your other Will options, LegalShield can help.
Read LegalShield’s complete estate planning guide to learn more about the options you have.
Need advice about making a legal decision? LegalShield’s personal and family plan helps you get in contact with a vetted law firm in your state.
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