Should my spouse and I have a joint will? - Absolutely not!  Long, long ago when women were considered merged into a single person with their husband having virtually no property rights of their own, and legal documents were written longhand, joint wills may have made sense, but they have no place in modern times.  If you and your spouse have a joint will, you need a review and a new will immediately.

However, a joint will should not be confused with mutual reciprocal wills which are mirror images of one another.  Typically each spouse leaving the majority of assets to the other.  Spouses need not have identical wills.  Such an arrangement may be wholly inappropriate.

It is important to note that a testamentary gift by will is assumed an absolute gift.  Leaving all your property to your spouse, with the expectation that it will eventually pass to your own children or other designees is a mistake.  This is particularly important in merged families of divorce and remarriage.  Your children, or guardian on their behalf may attempt a suit under a theory of promissory estoppel, but it's highly unlikely to substitute from proper planning upfront.

It may make for uncomfortable conversation but a testamentary trust combined with a will may be necessary to protect children and other family members in such mixed relationships.

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