Married couples have several options to choose from when creating a Will. The best choice depends on your circumstances, estates, and what you want from a Will.
Types of Wills for Married Couples
There are several types of Wills that married couples can choose from. All have different advantages and drawbacks that it is vital to be aware of before deciding what is best for you and your spouse:
- Joint Wills – a joint Will is a popular option for many married couples. It allows you to write your Wills together with many similar wishes but still have space to make your individual requests. It can reflect your wishes regarding legal guardians for your children or where certain assets will go, but you can leave specific items to certain people or donate to a charity that means a lot to you.
- Mirror Wills – a mirror Will is created in a pair and allows people to leave their estate to each other, and then usually to their children. Although they are simple and effective, there can be many pitfalls associated with mirror Wills, as either person can change them without notifying the other person. This can lead to many problems, such as sideways disinheritance, which could lead to inheritance disputes in the future.
- Mutual Wills – mutual Wills are very similar to mirror Wills but have a key difference. You cannot alter this type of Will without the other party agreeing, which can reduce the risk of sideways disinheritance after one party passes away. However, these Wills are inflexible, as they cannot be changed after one person passes away either. Being unable to alter them means that you will be unable to include new beneficiaries or take advantage of changes in tax law that could maximise the amount of your estate that you leave to your loved ones.
Alternatively, you and your spouse may choose to write your Wills entirely separately from one another. This can also have many advantages, such as allowing you both the flexibility to leave separate assets to people as you see fit. However, this could have unintended consequences if you do not consult with your spouse when creating your Will, such as you not being able to remain in your family home after your partner passes away.
Wills and Marriage
A little-known fact that many do not consider when estate planning is that marriage invalidates any Will you may have previously written. If you do not update or create a new Will after marriage, your estate will fall under the rules of intestacy, and your wishes may not be followed.
If you made your Will in contemplation of your marriage, it will remain valid, but some people find it much easier to revoke their previous Will and rewrite it with their spouse.
This rule has many implications for those who have remarried after a divorce or the death of their first spouse. Remarriage revokes their Will, which could potentially disinherit any children from their first marriage. Creating a new Will can avoid this possibility, as can trusts.
Trusts for Married Couples
Trusts are not just for the ultra-wealthy – you can use them to secure the future of your loved ones and prevent your children from being accidentally disinherited.
For example, a life interest trust can be established in your Will to help provide and care for your spouse after you pass away. Upon death, this trust grants your spouse the right to remain in your home and even receive income without having the right to the capital.
Life interest trusts help ring-fence half of the value of the family home, which ensures that it will pass to your chosen beneficiaries no matter what. This has additional benefits of protecting the home from being used to pay for high care fees, leaving more for your loved ones to inherit.
The property must be held as tenants in common rather than jointly to take advantage of this trust. Tenants in common means you and your partner own equal shares of the property, which you can distribute individually in your Will. If you remain as joint tenants after the first owner’s death, the rest of the property automatically passes to the second owner.
You may also choose to add a right to occupy trust within your Will, which allows your partner to reside in your property even if you leave it to other beneficiaries. This can be designed to end after a certain period or if your spouse remarries.
There are many trusts that you can incorporate into your Will or set up separately. The expert paralegals at The Planning Bee can talk you through your options and establish the trusts that are right for you.
How to Create a Will With Your Spouse
Creating a Will with your spouse does not have to be complicated. The easiest way is to sit down and do it together with a professional Will writer, so get prepared by:
- Listing your assets – consider what assets you and your spouse own, jointly and separately. This doesn’t have to be perfect, but having an idea about your assets, bank accounts, and even your digital assets such as passwords can make the Will writing process much more manageable.
- Asking open questions – sit down with your spouse and ask some open questions to figure out what you both want out of your Wills. You may want to leave everything to your children and grandchildren or leave part of your estate to a charity. Knowing what you want your Will to look like is a significant first step in estate planning.
Start estate planning now – get in touch with The Planning Bee to discuss your Will. A professionally written Will combined with trusts can help to provide for your spouse and loved ones after you pass away and protect your beneficiaries from sideways disinheritance.