Should spouses have separate wills? And other will questions

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Should Spouses Have Separate Wills And Other Will Questions

Estate planners may have questions about what they should include in their estate plan and what they should include in their will. It is helpful for estate planners to have answers to these questions, know what to include in their will and if spouses should have separate wills.

Separate wills for spouses

It is a good idea for spouses to have separate wills and in some states joint wills between spouses are not recognized. Though spouses may have some common estate planning interests to include in their wills, they may also have diverging interests related to children from prior marriages, ex-spouses or property obtained during a prior marriage.

Because there may be property that is not jointly held, and the spouses are unlikely to pass away at the time, it is a good idea to have separate wills. That said, the wills are likely to be similar. Separate wills allow the estate planner to address these concerns that might not be shared such as beneficiary designations including children from a prior marriage or property the spouse entered the marriage with.

Because probate law generally favors the current spouse, it is important to be clear about who gets what when including the estate planner’s wishes in the will. Designating specific property to a specific beneficiary is essential to be explicit about in the estate planner’s will.

Creating a will is critical to care for loved ones after the estate planner has passed. According to an AARP survey, only 2 out of 5 people over the age of 45 have a will. Having a will can help avoid heartache and headaches for family members which is why spouses should understand the importance of having a will and ensure that they each have one.


Michael Ritigstein is a Founding Partner of the firm concentrating his efforts in supporting the firm's litigation, corporate and estate matters. Mr. Ritigstein graduated from the University of Delaware in 1996 and Seton Hall University School of Law in 2000. In 2007 he received a Masters of Law in Taxation with a concentration in Estate Planning, from Temple University's Beasley School of Law.

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