Estate planning has changed significantly over the years. While creating joint wills was a common practice in years gone by, the practice is now discouraged. While New York State still allows joint wills, there are several reasons to explore other options with fewer disadvantages.
When a married couple decides to create a joint will, and one spouse dies, the surviving spouse will inherit the entire estate. When the surviving spouse passes away, the couple's children typically inherit the estate. Any changes or revocation of a joint will can only be done with the consent of both parties, and only while they are both still alive. As soon as one spouse dies, the surviving spouse may not change the joint will.
Problems arise when the surviving spouse remarries and has children for whom he or she would like to leave an inheritance, but the estate restricted by the joint will may not be touched. This could be particularly difficult if a young couple creates a joint will soon after their marriage, and one spouse passes away within a short time. The surviving spouse will be restricted by the joint will for the rest of his or her life.
Another scenario may involve a parent who loses touch with a child completely, and although there is no contact, that child will remain the beneficiary of the estate if the parents had a joint will. Any New York resident who has questions about the available options related to wills and estate planning may find that the advice of an experienced estate planning attorney can be invaluable. A lawyer will assess the person's circumstances and then provide the necessary support and guidance to establish estate plans to fit the client's unique needs.
Source: FindLaw, "Joint Wills", Accessed on Nov. 3, 2017