Welcome to the eighth in a series of Probate Horror Stories, courtesy of Brown & Crona, LLC. Last month the topic focused on family infighting over wills. This month we are covering the potential problems that can occur if you make a joint will with your spouse.
Fictional Situation: John and Michelle
- Married couple
- 4 adult children, 3 grandchildren entering college
- Own a large home, rental properties and a vacation home
- Created a joint will that states the spouse will inherit everything, then the children
On paper, creating a joint will with your spouse appears to cover all the bases when it comes to inheritance. However, if John or Michelle should pass away, the joint will becomes an irrevocable document that cannot be changed by the surviving spouse. Because life can throw us unexpected curves, the surviving spouse may be unable to change the terms of the will to react to certain situations such as:
- Selling property or other assets that have become a financial or physical burden
- Limiting inheritance for adult children who are estranged, irresponsible or have made poor life choices
- Dolling out money from the estate to fund a family member’s new home purchase, business venture or education expenses
- Changing a beneficiary or executor
- Leaving part of your estate to a new spouse (remarriage) after your first spouse passes away
It is more appropriate to set up individual wills, a living trust or reciprocal wills. These types of legal documents will give you more freedom to make changes in the event of your spouse’s death, ultimately protecting your estate.
The Denver estate planning attorneys at Brown & Crona, LLC do not typically recommend that married couples create joint wills in Colorado. We will discuss the different options that exist for estate planning and the potential ramifications of those options so you can make the most educated decision on which legal documents are right for you. To learn more or to hire a Denver estate planning lawyer, please contact us at (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online.
Watch for our blog next month for the next installment in our Probate Horror Story Series.