Sometimes, two people decide to create a will together, which would leave the assets and property to each other when one of them dies. This kind of will is known as a joint will, also referred to as a mutual will. With this type of will, two people, usually a married couple, would make certain that their property would be distributed in the exact same manner. This would ideally prevent the husband or wife from remarrying and modifying the beneficiaries of the couple’s shared estate.
How is a joint will enforced?
With a joint will, when one party passes away, the surviving party would inherit the whole shared estate. If the parties were married and had children, the estate would be passed down to the couple’s children when the surviving spouse passes away. According to a prominent probate attorney in Denver, to legally enforce a joint will, the following factors should apply:
- It should be made in a particular legal form in accordance with state laws;
- It should be contractual in effect;
- It should include an irrevocability intention; and
- The party that survived the party who passed away should have made the joint will fully intending to reflect and abide by the agreement.
Advantages and disadvantages of a joint will
Having a joint will would prevent a surviving party from suddenly changing her or his mind about the distribution of the shared estate. It would help guarantee that each would honor their intents, regardless of what happens when one of them passes away. It essentially provides peace of mind and a level of comfort for each party since they know that their wishes regarding their shared estate would be honored upon their death.
On the other hand, having a joint will also comes with certain disadvantages. For one, there’s the issue with potential revocability while both parties are alive. Likewise, the shared estate would be tied up until both parties pass away. There’s also a lot of red tapes involved when making amendments to a joint will. This is especially true if one party dies early, which leaves the shared estate tied up for many, many years.
The bottom line
Opting for a joint will is an immensely hard decision that should require a lot of thought. While it does offer a sense of comfort for both parties, especially married couples, it does come with certain disadvantages that you shouldn’t ignore. If you’re considering making a joint will, speak to an experienced estate planning lawyer in your state to help you decide if it’s the right move for you or if you have better alternatives.