The Dark Side of Joint Wills

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By: Bill Henry
PublishedOct 19, 2020
2 minute read

Just like a standard will, joint wills dictate what happens with your assets after your death. A lot of people may ask the question, is a joint will a good idea?

Estate Planning Attorney Bill Henry briefly goes over what a joint will is, how it works, and the issues that come with one.

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What is a Joint Will?

The idea behind a joint will is a good one, but it can have a downside. Generally, joint wills are created by a married couple. It’s usually one document that states if one partner passes away first, the estate goes to the surviving partner. Upon the other partner’s death, the remaining estate goes to any children or other loved ones.

Unfortunately, in practicality, there can be a lot of issues with joint wills.

Potential Problems with Joint Wills

A will only transfers probate assets.

Probate assets are those that you solely own or are titled only to you. These may include, your car, house, checking and savings accounts, investments, and your personal effects, such as jewelry and furniture.

That means, if you own property with someone, the other owner on the title receives it after your death – not the person you may have listed in your will.

Likewise, designated retirement plan beneficiaries will get the funds no matter who is in your will. For example, if your 401k documents name your brother as the beneficiary, but you state in your will you want your children to receive the money, guess who gets it? Not your children.

A joint will can tie the hands of the surviving spouse. 

Theoretically, the surviving spouse cannot do anything with the assets. For instance, they may not be able to sell their house or give monetary gifts during the remainder of their life.

Other Options to a Joint Will

In addition to recommending separate wills, one for each spouse, there is the classic use of a trust.

A trust will allow you to ensure your spouse is financially stable after your death by giving them access to the wealth you’ve accumulated. At the same time, you can safeguard your children’s inheritance.

If you have a blended family, it’s crucial to create a trust. In Colorado, stepchildren have no right to inheritance under a will.

If you only have a will, and you leave all of your assets to your spouse, your children may not receive the inheritance you intended for them. A trust guarantees your spouse is taken care of during his or her life and your children receive their portion, too.

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If you have questions about estate planning and trusts, set up some time to speak with one of our knowledgeable and caring estate planning attorneys. Call 303-688-0944 or click here to schedule online.

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