Do You and Your Spouse Need Separate Wills?

Estate planning, the legal term for determining what happens to your remaining money (known as assets) and belongings after you die, is an essential part of any adult’s life. It can be particularly important for couples with children, as a Will can dictate who takes care of your children if you were to unexpectedly pass away before they became legal adults. Creating the actual Will is where things can get complicated.

Some couples opt to make a Joint Will, a document that declares what happens to their combined estate should they die. A Joint Will speaks for both of them as a group rather than individually. They were more popular prior to modern technology, where doing the necessary legal paperwork was much harder and it was more efficient to only create one Will. Today, however, there are several reasons why making separate Wills is a smarter idea.

First, both members of a couple rarely die at the same time. No matter how conditioned we are by Romeo and Juliet or The Notebook, it is common for couples to die years or even decades apart from each other. When one member of a couple dies, the Will becomes locked. Since it was created by both of them, it can never be altered by only one. Dealing with the death of a spouse is a seismic lifestyle shift, and it could naturally lead to different plans for your estate. Without separate Wills, you could not change your plan to reflect this.

There are also frequently concerns in court about Joint Wills. When someone dies, their estate enters probate, the process by which it is decided what happens to everything they left behind. With a Joint Will, this process will likely begin while one spouse is still living. Imagine what it might feel like being at your own Will reading, revealing private details about your assets and belongings. Some states do not even recognize Joint Wills as legally sound and even when they do (like Illinois,) there are always more challenges brought against them than individual Wills face.

Creating a Joint Will also fails to address the individual needs of the spouses. For instance, if one spouse has children from a prior marriage, they would be unable to leave their personal belongings to that child removed from their spouse’s belongings. This process is much easier with an individual Will, as is leaving specific things to anyone you want. These Wills can be changed at any time on your own as well, not just alongside your spouse in agreement or following a divorce.

Creating separate Wills for you and your spouse may sound unnecessary, but it is the best legal option and the most accommodating to your needs. For help with any kind of estate planning, contact Velazquez Consumer Law, LLC today. We will help protect your family and your legacy!

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