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How does a joint will work?

Have you always assumed that you and your spouse need separate wills? You make all of your financial decisions together now, but you understand that one of you is most likely going to pass away before the other. You believe this means you both need a will so that the remaining party has their own estate plan in place.

This makes sense and you can draw up separate wills if you prefer. However, you can also use a joint will to do this planning together.

A joint will governs your entire estate. When one of you passes away, the whole estate then goes to the surviving party. When they pass away, the assets go to your children or other beneficiaries. The will makes provisions for what to do with all of those assets but specifies that they don't go to the beneficiaries until both people have passed.

For beneficiaries, this may mean they have to wait longer to get their inheritance. If someone's father passes away a decade before their mother, they have an extra 10 years before they get any of the assets their father wanted to leave to them. However, a joint will gives some security to the surviving spouse, as they know that they will get to keep all of the wealth that they control now, as a couple, for as long as they may need it.

Every family has unique needs. Just make sure you understand what options you have. An experienced estate planning attorney can go through those with you as you do your estate planning.

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