Get Legal Help Today
Secured with SHA-256 Encryption
UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021
It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.
We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.
Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.
A joint will is one that two people make together, each leaving all of their property and assets to the other. It also stipulates what will happen with the assets when the second person dies. This type of will is essentially a contract between the two makers and requires the consent of both for it to be revoked. On the plus side, a joint will is designed to prevent the surviving person, usually the spouse, from changing his mind about the disposition of the property after the first person dies. For example, if you were worried that your wife would remarry after your death and might rewrite her will to leave everything to her new stepchild, the joint will might make sense.
But, on the negative side, joint wills can tie up property for years until the second person dies, and the survivor is unable to revise the will to reflect changed circumstances. During those years, the survivor’s situation might change so much that a new will would be appropriate, but the deceased person cannot approve a new will. The survivor is either stuck with the will as written, or else will have to go through all kinds of legal hoops to try to invalidate the original contract. For example, suppose your husband dies first, and your daughter later marries a millionaire and doesn’t need your money. Unfortunately, all of the property that came to you through the joint will will have to be passed on as the will dictates and you have no choice in the matter.
Discuss the pros and cons with an estate attorney before you decide you want a joint will. A couple can use two separate Wills to accomplish most of the sensible goals of a joint will and avoid its limitations and potential problems. Sometimes it is better to have faith that the surviving half of the couple will make sensible decisions.