Potential Complications of Joint Wills
A joint will is shared between two people — typically a married couple who mutually decide to leave all property in the estate to the other person in the case of their death. Although joint wills are almost always entered into with the hopes of simplifying estate planning, there are potential complications that may arise from these shared contracts.
When a joint will is created, it notes that upon the first spouse’s death, the surviving spouse inherits all assets of the estate. It also usually states that when the second spouse dies, all assets will be passed down to the couple’s children. In most situations, changes cannot be made to the document after the first spouse passes away — something that can be frustrating for survivors.
Addressing common challenges
Keeping in mind that a joint will cannot be changed after the first spouse’s death, and so couples must enter into this agreement fully understanding that it’s completely legally binding. When one party dies, the surviving spouse will most likely not be allowed to bestow assets to children during the course of his or her lifetime. Thus, if one spouse dies at a young, unexpected age, it could be decades before the couple’s children are able access their inheritances.
Additionally, because the first spouse’s death renders the joint will as a fixed contract, it does not allow for the surviving spouse to respond to changes in life circumstances. For example, the surviving spouse may not be allowed to give assets to children or grandchildren for financial assistance, college expenses, purchasing a home or starting a business. Survivors may also not be able to sell their homes in the event that they need to go to a nursing home facility or simply wish to downsize.
If you and your spouse would like further guidance on the best methods of handling your estate, consult a knowledgeable Florida will and trust lawyer at the Charles Law Offices today.