So you’re getting married. Congratulations! We’re sure our invite got lost in the mail. You have a lot on your shoulders after all. You had to find the perfect hall, the right caterer, a dress that will stun, and don’t forget about the right DJ. But what about the legal stuff? The marriage certificate isn’t hard, but there’s more that you may not have had the time to think about yet. Don’t worry, Collins Law is here to do some of that thinking for you, specifically when it comes to your last will and testament. What type of will should a married couple have? Let’s take a look.
If You Have a Will Does Your Spouse Need One?
When you get married you do more stuff together than ever before. You file your taxes jointly, you share accounts and property, and you share a legal bond. It makes sense that you would need one will then. There are wills that work that way and they are called joint wills. These wills may seem like they make the most sense, and for some perhaps they do, but there are some reasons why you may want to avoid one in favor of separate wills or even a mirror will.
Is a Joint Will the Best Option for a Married Couple?
On the surface, a joint will seems simple and even ideal. One document to cover both parties in the event that either of you or the both of you should pass. You can still change these wills at any time, but here’s the trick of the matter, both of you are required to make any changes.
Do you see the issue? When one spouse dies, the will remains in place and becomes unchangeable. For this reason, joint wills are often not recommended by estate planners. Even if the surviving spouse gets remarried, the assets and terms covered in the will are still in place. One advantage of this type of will is that children and other secondary beneficiaries are locked into their inheritance once one spouse passes. Sometimes, even unintentionally, a future marriage can disinherit children from the first marriage. A joint will could prevent that.
What is a Mirror Will?
A mirror will is a slightly deceptive term because a mirror will is actually two wills, but the trick here is that both wills are nearly identical. You can see why they are so attractive to married couples.
Where a mirror will is especially useful when you just want your estate to pass to your partner, and vice-versa. Secondary beneficiaries—which covers what will happen to your estate in the event that you both pass—will be the same between the two wills.
Why Would a Married Couple Want Separate Wills?
A mirror will is already a separate will, but there may be circumstances in which two wills differ greatly. Perhaps one spouse runs a business, and you both want that business to pass to a child or children instead of the remaining spouse. Maybe you have multiple houses or properties, and spouses have different wishes about what should happen to those properties upon passing. There could even be family heirlooms that should pass to certain people and not the surviving spouse. In these circumstances, you want separate wills. An experienced attorney, such as those at Collins Law in Wauwatosa, can help!
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