Joint vs. Separate Wills: Which Is Right for You?

Most married couples make joint financial decisions, so on the surface, it makes sense that they share a will. But is it actually a good idea? Or should each spouse have their own will? In this blog, the estate planning team at ElDeiry & ElDeiry, PA reviews the pros and cons of joint vs. separate wills.

Joint Wills

A joint will is a legal document stating that if one spouse dies, the other one receives the entire estate. When the surviving spouse passes away, everything goes to the children they had together. 

One reason why some couples create a joint will is that it appears to fulfill the estate planning goals of most married people, which are:

  • A surviving spouse inherits everything
  • Their children will eventually inherit the entire estate

For example, if the surviving spouse remarries, the children wouldn’t have to worry that their new stepparent will receive the inheritance intended for them.

One of the biggest disadvantages is that a joint will can only be changed or revoked by both spouses. This can lead to unwanted outcomes. For example:

  • If you remarry after your spouse dies and have more children, you can’t change your will to provide for your new spouse and children. 
  • You cannot disinherit or decrease the inheritance of a child who turns on the family.
  • If you create a joint will as a young married couple and become widowed soon afterwards, the terms of the will may bind you for the next 40 to 60 years, possibly longer.
  • You may not be able to sell assets covered in the will, such as the house 

This restriction doesn’t apply to individual wills, which can be amended by the testator as long as they have capacity to do so.

Separate Wills

With separate wills, each spouse provides for the distribution of their assets and property after they pass away. The benefits of this arrangement include:

  • You can allow for differences in estate planning goals
  • Blended families aren’t excluded from inheritances

Life can change unexpectedly, and you should retain the ability to amend your estate plan accordingly. Creating and maintaining your own will even after marriage gives you the flexibility to do exactly that.

Contact an Estate Planning Attorney Today

At ElDeiry & ElDeiry, PA, we help married couples develop wills that achieve their estate planning goals. Marriage is a financial as well as emotional partnership, and we will work with you to create an estate plan that ensures your ongoing financial security, individually and as a couple. To schedule a no-obligation consultation, please contact our office today.

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