Talking about a will is one of the most important, but also one of the most overlooked, things that married couples can do to protect their assets and provide for their family’s future. While many couples delay in having these discussions, the reality is that it is never too soon to plan for life’s biggest “what if.”
We help couples of all ages develop estate plans on a regular basis. When working with married couples, one of the questions that almost invariably comes up is: “Since we’re married, should we have a joint will”? While this is a valid question, and one that merits consideration, the answer in most cases is going to be, “No.”
Pros and Cons of Joint Wills for Married Couples in Florida
- It can be less expensive to draft one will than two.
In most cases, this is the only positive to having a joint will. However, the cost difference is not that great, and as discussed below, the costs of dealing with a joint will after one spouse passes can often far surpass the costs of preparing individual wills.
- A joint will can present challenges when one spouse desires to make a change.
- The assets of the first spouse to die may need to be probated until the second spouse’s death.
- Following the first spouse’s death, the surviving spouse will have significant challenges in revising the joint will.
The main problem stemming from use of a joint will is the lack of flexibility it affords both during and after the couple’s marriage. Personal and family circumstances can change drastically over time, and something that two spouses agree upon now may need to be revisited 10, 20, or even 50 years down the road. With a joint will, it can often be difficult and time consuming (and expensive) to attempt to revise a spouse’s wishes in the event of changed circumstances.
For example, consider a couple that decides to create a joint will in their early forties. In a tragic accident, one spouse dies unexpectedly at 45. The other spouse lives into his or her nineties. This potentially leaves over four decades for the couple’s joint will to both (i) restrict the surviving spouse’s ability to make changes, and (ii) prevent the deceased spouse’s assets from passing to his or her beneficiaries.
What Makes Sense for Your Estate Plan?
Of course, each individual situation is unique, and what makes sense for another couple may not be best for you and your spouse. The information in this article is not intended as legal advice, and you should always speak with a local estate planning attorney before making any decisions about your will.
Speak with an Estate Planning Lawyer at Beller & Bustamante, P.L.
Attorneys Rebeccah Beller and Mina Bustamante each have decades of experience representing couples and spouses in Florida estate planning and family law matters. To schedule a consultation at Beller & Bustamante, P.L., call our Jacksonville, FL offices at (904) 288-4414 or contact us online today.