At Tomorrow, we encourage families of all kinds to do their estate planning documents in the way that works for them. But we often get the question: “can I do a joint will with Tomorrow?” Here are some answers to some commonly-asked questions from our in-house attorney Tracy Nilson.
1) What is a joint will?
“A joint will is a single last will and testament for two individuals, usually a married couple. A joint will typically provides that (1) the surviving spouse receives the assets after the first spouse dies and (2) upon the death of the surviving spouse, the assets are distributed to the surviving children or a charity.”
2) Would you advise a joint will? Why or why not?
“We would not advise using a joint will. A joint will can limit the surviving spouse’s options during his, her or their lifetime. For example, if the joint will provides for a distribution of the specific family home at the end of the surviving spouse’s life, the surviving spouse may not be able to sell the home during his, her or their lifetime even if it would make financial sense to do so.
A joint will can only be revoked or amended by both parties so after the death of the first spouse, the surviving spouse cannot make any changes to the will, or can only make changes with approval from the court which could take a significant amount of time and money and could be very complicated. Being unable to amend the document be problematic as circumstances could change significantly after the death of the first spouse. Suppose the will provides that the estate goes to a specific charity after the death of the second spouse, but that charity goes out of business before then – the surviving spouse will not be able to amend, or it will be very difficult to amend, the will to provide for a new charity.
Finally, joint wills are not allowed in all states.”
3) Why do you need two separate wills for couples? How can Tomorrow help you do this and still stay connected with your spouse?
“We suggest that each individual prepare his, her or their own will in order to provide the maximum amount of ease and flexibility in the documents. Tomorrow can help you and your spouse each prepare your own will. You can also be connected to your spouse through Tomorrow so that you are aware of how he, she or they want his, her or their estate distributed upon his, her or their death.”