A joint will is a single legal document signed by two or more individuals. The party’s last will and testaments are combined in a joint will. The surviving party will inherit the entire estate. When the surviving party dies, the estate will be transferred to one or more beneficiaries. Joint wills are most often used by married couples who want to protect their assets.
Reach out to a Mississippi Estate Planning Attorney
Under certain circumstances, joint wills are legally recognized in Mississippi, but they can also present challenges for estate planners and their beneficiaries. The skilled estate planning attorneys at Palmer & Slay, PLLC will review your situation and goals and advise you on the best estate planning strategy. Contact Palmer & Slay, PLLC, today to schedule your initial consultation and learn more.
How a Joint Will Works
A joint will is similar to a standard will in that it dictates what happens to a person’s assets after his or her death. The difference is that in joint wills, two or more people have signed the will and agree to abide by the terms of the will. Married couples are the most common signers of joint wills. This type of will can be effective for a married couple because the other will receive the entire estate when one spouse dies.
When the second spouse passes away, the estate typically passes to the couple’s children and grandchildren according to the terms in their will. The couple doesn’t have to name their children and grandchildren as their beneficiaries. They can also distribute property to their favorite charity, a friend, or an organization they support.
As well as traditional wills, the beneficiaries of a joint will need to go through the probate process after both spouses have passed away. The beneficiaries will receive the assets once the probate process has been completed. A Mississippi probate court oversees the probate process and will appoint an executor to validate the will, pay the decedent’s debts, and distribute the remaining estate assets.
Does Mississippi Recognize Joint Wills?
Mississippi does recognize joint wills as valid as long as all of the statutory requirements for will execution have been followed. The joint will needs to be legally binding and intended to take effect upon the death of each testator that signs the will, not just for the second person to die. Otherwise, Mississippi courts will not enforce the joint will for either of the testators. Some estate planners use joint wills when they want the will to be irrevocable after the first testator passes away. However, these results can be achieved by each spouse executing a separate will along with an agreement. For a joint will to be irrevocable when the first testator dies, it must include specific language providing for irrevocability. The language must be included in the will or a separately executed contract. Without this language, the surviving testator can revoke or alter the joint will.
Creating a Joint Will
Although a joint will may seem like what you need, it is unusual that an experienced estate planning attorney will recommend this type of will. It is always important to work with an estate planning attorney to determine the best estate planning tool for your situation. Using a template from the internet may save you money in the short run but could cause you and your family significant financial damage in the future. An attorney can also help you ensure that your will is correctly executed, does what you want it to do, and is considered legally valid in Mississippi.
Challenges That May Arise With Joint Wills
It may seem convenient to have both spouses sign the same estate plan but creating a joint will can cause problems. In most cases, estate planning attorneys will advise people to create individual wills that are similar instead of creating a single, joint will.
For example, as long as both spouses are alive, the joint will can be revoked and/or modified when both spouses agree to the changes. However, when one spouse survives the other spouse, the surviving spouse can’t easily modify the terms of the will. Trying to predict the future can be difficult, if not impossible. Without the flexibility to make changes to an estate plan, the surviving spouse can find himself or herself in a challenging situation.
The birth of new children or grandchildren, the death of loved ones, a divorce in the family, financial challenges, or a beneficiary who begins struggling with addiction are all significant life changes that could necessitate a change to the couple’s estate plan. In other cases, the beneficiary of the joint will may pass away before the surviving spouse passes away. Alternatively, the couple may have chosen an organization as their beneficiary that has since stopped operating, and they did not list a contingent beneficiary. In any of those situations, a joint will can make the surviving spouse’s efforts to adjust to meet the changes life brings almost impossible.
Alternatives to Joint Wills
Before you and your spouse decide to create and sign a joint will, it’s essential to understand your options. You may want to consider an alternative to creating this type of will, such as separate wills or a trust. A trust is another common way to pass your estate to your beneficiaries after your death, and it allows your beneficiaries to avoid the probate process. An estate planning attorney can help you evaluate each option and select the best one for you.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney As Soon As Possible
If you would like to create a will of any form, it’s crucial that you work with an experienced estate planning attorney. Disadvantages come with creating a joint will that may negatively impact you and your estate. If you have questions about a will, whether single or joint, reach out to the experienced estate planning attorneys at Palmer & Slay, PLLC, to schedule an initial consultation.