Should I make a joint will with my spouse?

Updated: Feb 24

Happily married? You’re probably used to doing lots of things together--filing taxes, paying bills, buying assets (houses? cars?), making investments. Add this one to your list: estate planning! (ha, really surprised you with that one, huh?) But there is something you may NOT want to do together—use a joint will.


For those who are not familiar, spouses are allowed by law (in Missouri, at least) to make a joint will, which basically is a single will signed by both of them, usually leaving all their properties to each other, regardless who passes away first… At first, this sounds pretty sensible, right?



Convenience might just be one of the most common reasons why spouses opt for joint wills. Looking at it, drafting a joint will certainly seems the less tedious and less time-wasting route, instead of making two separate wills containing pretty much the same provisions and including the same assets and beneficiaries.


 

Here’s the catch, though. Once one of the spouses passes away, that joint will becomes “irrevocable”; that is, it cannot be changed. At all. Not even a smidge.


With a joint will, regardless of how life may change for the surviving spouse, they will not be allowed to change the terms of the will. That’s right—surviving spouses are going to be stuck with the stipulations in the joint will forever!


This may sound fine for some, but most people find this a little too restrictive (especially when the spouses are still young and may choose to remarry, have more kids, etc.).


A better alternative to a joint will? Mirror wills!



The concept of mirror wills is one you won’t exactly find in law books (no, it’s not a real legal concept!), it is nonetheless the perfect option to avoid the potential issues in joint wills.




As the name suggests, mirror wills are two separate documents, often drafted by the spouses at the same time (though this is not required!), and contain very similar terms—those with respect to gifts, provisions, properties involved, and so on. The wills will have the other spouse as the executor and first beneficiary of the other, and this pretty much is the only non-identical portion of the documents. The rest, the meat of the instrument, is the same.


To emphasize, mirror wills are two separate and distinct instruments—one for each spouse. This being so, a surviving spouse need not deal with the restrictions that come with a joint will. Each spouse has their own will, and they can freely change it or make an entirely new one, whenever and whatever the reason may be!


Also, here’s another great thing about mirror wills. Because it is not a strict legal concept as I have said earlier, any two people are free to make them—perfect for couples who are cohabiting without the benefit of marriage! Essentially, as long as this is what both of you want (same goes for married couples), you and your partner are free to make mirror wills, which, again, you can easily opt to change or replace, unlike a joint will.


Of course, there are some legal aspects that will have to be considered (else they might be disallowed for probate!) in drafting any wills, and I am here to help!


When you and your spouse/partner are ready to discuss, go ahead and drop me a line! You may also choose to sign up for a free virtual consultation by clicking this link.


Looking forward to guiding you through this step—all for your and your family’s future!




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