Do Married Couples Need Separate Wills?

Elderly couple

Most couples like to combine their finances and legal documents since it’s a convenient way to manage things and stay informed of any changes. If you’re considering making a Will, writing a joint Will may also seem like a good idea but is it the best option?

There may be better alternatives available that help to avoid potential issues later down the line. Here we discuss the pros and cons as well as alternatives.

What is a joint Will?

Joint Wills are closely related to mutual Wills, and although the name implies that it’s a single Will, it’s actually two separate Wills that echo the wishes of the other partner. A joint Will can cover decisions for which both parties are responsible such as child and pet care, property, and finances.

Joint Wills can also include additional wishes that are specific to the individual rather than the couple; these can include gifting personal possessions, writing messages for beneficiaries, or instructions relating to their funeral.

Joint Wills usually state that when one testator dies, everything will be passed to the other, and when they die, everything will be distributed according to the wishes of both parties.

If you decide to create a joint Will, it should be updated regularly to ensure that your wishes are adhered to after your death. It is especially important to update a joint Will if you separate, have a new child, or make any other significant changes that affect the people named in your Will. If you plan to divorce the other party in your joint Will, you should make changes to your Will as soon as possible, as if you die, they are legally entitled to the share allocated to them until the decree absolute is issued.

Joint Wills – the negatives

Making a joint Will requires both parties to agree that the Wills cannot be changed without the consent of the other party, even after one party has died. This can create issues if you choose to remarry or have more children as you won’t be able to change the instructions to include these new family members.

The likelihood of future changes in life can make joint Wills a bad choice for the majority of couples.

Making mirror Wills

Mirror Wills work in a similar way to joint Wills but both parties are free to update their Wills at any time without the consent of the other.

Mirror Wills are two individual Wills that are identical in many aspects. As with joint Wills, many couples choose to leave everything to the surviving partner, and on their death, the estate is distributed according to the wishes of both parties.

The main benefit of a mirror Will is that either party is free to change the Will at any point without notifying the other, this is particularly useful if you remarry or have children after your partner dies.

Using trusts in your Will

If you’re concerned about how your partner may distribute funds after your death, you could choose to use trusts in your Will that still allow them to benefit from assets. After their death, the funds in trust pass to the beneficiaries you specify.

There are several different types of trusts available that can be written into a Will, so it’s best to seek advice to identify the most suitable for your individual circumstances.

Making a Will with Paradigm

It is important to make a Will so that your wishes are taken into account when you die. Paradigm Wills & Legal Services offer a free initial consultation as well as expert Will Writing services that are approved by the Institute of Professional Will Writers. Contact us today on 0800 999 7750 to discuss your options with a member of our team.

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