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What is a joint will?

Many people do not realize they may have numerous options when it comes to creating a will, depending on their financial and personal circumstances. One type of will that is commonly overlooked is a joint will, usually created for a married couple. Joint wills are used less frequently now than in previous years, because many of the advantages of a joint will are available elsewhere, often with additional benefits.

If you know someone who uses a joint will, they probably created the will some time ago, before other estate planning tools gained prominence. Joint wills require that all the parties involved agree on the terms of the document, meaning that one party cannot alter the will without the consent of the other party. This remains true even after one party dies or is incapacitated, leaving the surviving party locked into a will he or she cannot alter.

For years, a joint will was the simplest and most effective way to transfer an estate between spouses or to children within a family. However, modern estate planning often accomplishes this goal more effectively by using trusts to hold a family's assets and distribute them. In most cases, a carefully constructed trust offers ideal protection and flexibility to those considering how to keep assets within their family.

If you have concerns about how to pass on your assets to your spouse or other loved ones, an attorney who understands the complexity of estate planning law can help. Your needs may require very specific tools, so be sure that you fully understand the issues at hand and how to protect your interests before you move forward.

Source: FindLaw, "Joint Wills," accessed Jan. 04, 2018

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