Glossary: Joint Will For Married Couple

The Joint Will For Married Couple is a document executed by two persons (often a husband and wife) leaving everything to the other person upon the death of the first person. When the surviving spouse dies, the estate is then left to the children (or other beneficiaries) in equal shares. The will must be executed when the person is of sound mind and must be witnessed by unrelated persons. The form should also be notarized. We highly recommend that you consult with a competent attorney to ensure that this North Dakota Joint Will For Married Couple meets all of the legal requirements in your state.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Some states do not recognize the right of survivorship. Certain states consider the estate taxable if the value of the decedent’s assets exceed the state or federal limits. Check with an attorney if you live in a community property state and aren’t sure on your state’s treatment of assets received from your deceased spouse.

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A joint will is one that two people, typically a married couple, sign together. Instead of each spouse having a separate will, they have one document that they’ve both agreed to. Most joint wills are written such that when one spouse dies, their portion of the estate passes to the other. Then the entire estate goes to their children when the second spouse passes away.

Joint wills may sound like a simplified way to handle your assets after death, but they’re inflexible documents that can put people in a bind when circumstances change or if one spouse long outlives the other. Some states also don’t recognize joint wills, which decreases their usefulness.

One of the biggest potential problems with joint wills is that the surviving spouse is unable to change the terms of the will, regardless of the changed circumstances after the death of his or her spouse. For example, when the surviving spouse remarries another person and wants to leave some of the assets to his or her stepchild, the joint will prevents the surviving spouse to leave any part of the estate to that stepchild.

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