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Why a joint will probably isn't right for you

Some Maryland couples consult estate planning attorneys to have joint wills drafted. They figure that this is the most efficient way to leave their assets to their children. With a joint will, each can designate that when one of them dies, the estate will automatically go to the surviving spouse.

Joint wills aren't as common as they used to be. These days, documents can be drafted and printed easily and quickly, so there isn't the significant time and labor savings there once was.

Further, they have some significant disadvantages over separate wills. For example, once one of the spouses has passed away, the surviving spouse can't make any changes to the will or revoke it.

Since many things can change in the years following the first spouse's death, that can be highly inconvenient and restrictive. For example, if the surviving spouse remarries, he or she can't change it to include the new spouse and/or stepchildren as beneficiaries.

Further, if circumstances change with one or more of the couple's children that the surviving spouse believes warrants a change in their inheritance or even a complete disinheritance, the will can't be changed.

If a couple wants to accomplish the dual goals of automatically transferring their estate to the surviving spouse after the other dies and leaving their estate to their children, a good option is to set up a trust that details these wishes. They can also include any other directives and restrictions they would like to set. Such a trust can be set up to allow the surviving spouse to change the terms or revoke it entirely during his or her lifetime.

If you and your spouse are ready to draft your estate plan, an experienced Maryland estate planning attorney can work with you to help ensure that your wishes are properly codified. This can save your family and whichever one of you survives the other with peace of mind and minimizes stress and costs for everyone.

Source: FindLaw, "Joint Wills," accessed May 23, 2018

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