Although the concept of a joint will is not one that is commonly known, suggested, or created, a joint last will and testament is indeed a valid type of document. As the name implies, this type of will involves more than one individual. Typically, a document of this type has two grantors. Normally the two grantors are a husband and wife; it is rare to see a joint will with children or a child.
What Is a Joint Will?
A joint will is one that is created by two individuals, normally a husband and wife. In this type of scenario, each individual bequeaths his property and assets to the other individual. The joint last will and testament will also include instructions for what happens to the property and assets when the second individual dies. In essence, the two individuals are forming a contract together. In order for the contract or will to become revoked, it is necessary for both individuals to agree to it.
What Must Go Into a Joint Will?
When creating a joint will, both parties must agree upon the assets and property that will be included. They must also determine and agree upon who will be named as the beneficiaries to inherit the estate in the joint last will and testament. If minor children are involved as beneficiaries, a guardian must be chosen. Typically, this person is referred to as a personal guardian and he will be given the responsibility of seeing to the minor children’s daily needs.
What Are the Advantages of a Joint Will?
The primary advantage of a joint will is related to the disposition of the property upon the death of the second individual. It is designed so that the surviving person, typically a spouse, cannot change his mind about who to give the assets to in the will. He cannot change the disbursement of the property and assets of the estate contrary to the wishes of the other person. The terms of a joint last will and testament remain intact after the initial person dies.
For an example of this advantage of a joint will, imagine a scenario in which the two people are married and have two children. Both individuals agree that the property and assets that belong to the two of them will be given to the two children when both of the parents are no longer living. However, without a joint will indicating these specific terms, it is possible that the surviving spouse might not make their two children the beneficiaries of the estate. This situation could occur if the spouse remarried, had another child, or simply moved in with someone else.
What Are the Disadvantages of a Joint Will?
The primary disadvantage of a joint will is that none of the property is disbursed until after the second person dies. Therefore, even if the surviving person wishes to revise the will, she cannot do so. One example of a change in life circumstances that might lead to a desire to change the joint last will and testament is that one of the children might become a millionaire and no longer need the inheritance.
A second disadvantage of a joint will is that it cannot be changed even if circumstances have changed. Both parties to the joint last will and testament must be present in order to revoke the will. Therefore, with one individual deceased, the document cannot be altered in any manner. Although it might be possible to invalidate the original document through a long series of litigations, it is unlikely that this will occur.