Is a Joint Will What You Need?
June 30th, 2016
Some couples who know that they should get wills and who would prefer not to pay for two of them might want to consider getting a joint will, but they need to know exactly what they are getting.
Rather than getting two separate wills some married couples prefer to get a single will called a "joint will." They can often save money by doing so as attorneys are often willing to give discounts as creating a joint will is easier for the attorney than creating two wills.
Most of the time joint wills are relatively simple. Both spouses agree that any assets of the person who passes away first will go to the surviving spouse. When the second spouse passes away any remaining assets usually are split between the couple's children. Joint wills can be more complex than that, but they normally follow a similar pattern.
The question then becomes are joint wills a good bargain? The answer to that depends on a few things.
As Big Canoe News points out in "A joint will is not a bargain BOGO," the surviving spouse is almost never required to follow the terms of the joint will if he or she does not want to. What sometimes ends up happening is that the surviving spouse lives many years longer and at some point decides to divide his or her estate differently. There is nothing stopping the surviving spouse from doing just that. A new will can be created and it can override the joint will.
Thus, whether or not a joint will is a good deal depends on how long one spouse will outlive the other and how committed that spouse is to the terms of the joint will.
Reference: Big Canoe News (April 27, 2016) "A joint will is not a bargain BOGO"