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Advanced Estate Planning

California Joint Wills Attorneys

Helping Married Clients Prepare for the Future

Most couples begin estate planning to protect their loved ones, including their spouse and children. If one spouse passes, they want to be sure that the remaining spouse retains ownership over the estate and that their children will receive a full inheritance, even if the surviving spouse remarries. In the past, joint wills were often used to protect families from legal disputes and provide family members with a secure financial future.

However, it is now recognized that joint wills are not the right choice for every couple. This type of will can cause problems since it can only be revoked or changed with the approval of both spouses. If one spouse passes, this makes it impossible to update the will in case of remarriage, divorce, birth of new grandchildren, and other unforeseen changes to the family dynamics. Understanding whether a joint will is suitable for your comprehensive estate plan is crucial when deciding which type of will to create.

A joint wills attorney like those at The Singh Law Firm can explain your options, including joint and separate wills. We have vast experience helping families create many kinds of wills, including mutual, mirror, and joint wills. You can count on us for legal guidance and representation when it matters most. Call 510-901-5375 right away for a free consultation at our estate planning law firm.

When Is a Joint Will Helpful in the Estate Planning Process?

While many people today shy away from creating a joint will, there are some circumstances when this kind of document is helpful. First, it is essential to understand what a joint will does.

Joint wills perform crucial functions for couples, including:

  • Providing instructions for how assets are distributed following one spouse’s death
  • Ensuring the surviving spouse inherits the entire estate
  • Indicating that when both spouses die, the estate is passed on to the children

A joint will can help you and your spouse achieve your estate planning goals by protecting estate assets, including bank accounts, retirement accounts, residential property, investment property, investment accounts, and other assets. Joint wills can ensure that your specific wishes are heard and respected while guaranteeing a comfortable life for your spouse.

Before starting the legal process of creating a joint will, please consult an experienced estate planning attorney about potential drawbacks and other estate planning options based on your unique circumstances.

What Are the Potential Drawbacks of Using Joint Wills in California?

Joint wills were popular until recently when many lawyers realized these legal documents could cause potential conflicts when the first spouse passes away. California law prevents a surviving spouse from adjusting the will if their husband or wife dies, creating difficulties for surviving family members. This can make adjusting the conditions of the will to your current family’s conditions extremely difficult or even impossible.

Some other actions the surviving spouse may not be able to perform with a joint will include:

  • Allocating part of the estate to an adult child outside the terms of the will, such as in cases of emergency or to buy a home
  • Giving some of the funds to grandchildren for educational expenses
  • Selling the estate home, such as to move into a smaller house or an assisted living facility
  • Restricting a beneficiary’s access to the estate in case of disability or irresponsibility
  • Selling other assets in the will

A joint will attorney can advise you on the risks and alternatives for your specific circumstances. Contact our law offices immediately to discuss joint wills and other estate planning needs.

What Alternatives are there for Joint Wills?

Even though joint wills appear attractive because they reduce costs, joint wills may create additional problems that can result in disputes or litigation later on. If your will results in legal action for your surviving spouse or children, this can quickly deplete the estate through legal fees, negating any earlier savings.

Some alternatives for couples who want the protection of a joint will without the risks include:

  • Mirror wills – In a mirror will, both spouses have the same terms in each of their wills. However, these wills allow a surviving spouse to adjust the terms of their own will when their spouse dies.
  • Mutual wills – Like mirror wills, mutual wills are separate wills for each spouse that become binding when one spouse dies away. For this reason, this legal document has the same risks as a joint will.
  • Living wills – A living will indicates how your medical care will be handled if you cannot make decisions for yourself due to injury, illness, or age.
  • Individual wills—Another option is for the couple to create two separate wills, each with the power to change according to the individual’s wishes if one spouse passes away. This allows the couple to adjust beneficiary designations and other details in the will.

Married couples wishing to provide a better future for their spouse should take careful consideration before creating estate planning documents that lock them into a particular set of terms. Call our law firm immediately to learn how California state laws impact your last will and whether a joint or another type of individual will is right for you.

Who Can Create and Benefit from a Joint Will?

Many couples view estate planning similarly to owning assets and making financial decisions as a married couple. They have the same bank account, and both names appear on the mortgage, so it seems natural to create a joint will between the two individuals. However, after the first spouse’s death, a joint will can be restrictive beyond what the surviving spouse can tolerate, causing complex legal issues.

However, if you are certain that a joint will suits you and your spouse, you can discuss the legal requirements and process of creating these wills with your wills attorney. You may also qualify for a joint will with someone who is not your spouse. Some people for whom a joint will might be ideal include those who don’t have a high-value estate, those with very few beneficiaries, and those who are in complete agreement with the other person on the will.

Should You Hire Our Joint Wills Lawyers?

Many clients who are looking for an income tax deduction choose charitable trusts to decrease their tax burden while maintaining a stream of income while they are alive. Our team of attorneys is dedicated to developing the right plan for you and your family. We are honored to help clients give to charitable organizations while providing income for one or more beneficiaries during the client’s lifetime. We would love to help protect your estate while providing a legacy of generosity for future generations.

Please reach out to us right away to learn more about the benefits and limitations of a charitable remainder trust. We can help ensure that your chosen charity gets the donation you wish. At the same time, we can eliminate the capital gains tax burden and help you receive income during your lifetime.

We promise to answer your questions and concerns in terms you can understand so you can make the best decision for your unique circumstances. Our diverse range of clients have trusted us for over a decade, and you can rely on us to treat your case with the same level of care and dedication.

Call 510-901-5375 immediately to schedule a free consultation with our compassionate, capable legal team.