March 15, 2022
The Trouble with Joint Wills | Michigan Will and Trust Lawyer
A will enables you to clearly communicate your wishes regarding the distribution of your assets and the guardianship of your minor children after your passing. While it can be difficult to think about the inevitable, it can give you peace of mind knowing your family will be taken care of when you’re gone.
Some people choose to create what’s called a joint will. A joint will is a document two or more people sign together to combine each party’s last will and testament. Generally, married couples use a joint will so the surviving spouse receives the assets when the other dies and then transfers everything to their children upon the surviving spouse’s death.
Although a joint will sounds straightforward enough, it can also create substantial problems for surviving spouses and family members. Keep reading to learn more about risks associated with joint wills and how a Michigan will and trust lawyer can help you determine an estate plan that suits your specific needs.
Disadvantages of Creating a Joint Will
If you’re married and considering combining your assets into a joint will, you should understand the potential issues that could arise if you or your spouse dies. Many people don’t realize that, depending on where they live, state laws could prohibit them from amending the joint will upon the passing of their spouse.
Decisions that made sense while both spouses were alive may turn out to be disadvantageous if life circumstances change down the line. Essentially, a surviving spouse could be stuck with an estate plan that limits their options and no longer benefits their heirs in the best way possible.
Specifically, a surviving spouse who had created a joint will may be unable to do any of the following after the death of their partner:
- Rent or sell jointly owned property
- Change the inheritance of a beneficiary
- Add a new spouse or child to an existing joint will created with their deceased spouse
- Provide heirs with an early inheritance or assist family members financially with assets that are listed in the joint will
- Amend the will to limit how an irresponsible heir may use funds
- Use assets included in the will to pay for a large expense, such as medical care
- Control the distribution of assets to an estranged child or relative
Attempting to change specific parts of a joint will could require a lengthy and costly legal process, tying up assets in the meantime. If you have a joint will and want to amend any part of it, you should do so immediately before your spouse passes.
However, joint wills are rarely used today, given the challenges they can pose for surviving spouses and heirs. Your best option may be to revoke the joint will and create an estate plan that’s more flexible and takes your present and potential future needs into account.
If you’re thinking about creating a joint will or want to revoke a current one, call our office today at 844.885.4200 to schedule an appointment to discuss your legal options with a Michigan will and trust lawyer.
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