A Reciprocal Will is the go-to estate planning document for most married couples. Based on the idea that a married couple will likely have the same wishes for their estate, their Wills are created to “mirror” each other so that no matter which spouse dies first, the estate is handled in essentially the same way.
There are of course, instances where Reciprocal Wills may vary slightly. While both you and your spouse will name each other as executors and primary beneficiaries, you may have different ideas about who will inherit other items in your possession.
Likewise, if you have children from a previous marriage, your Will should address this separately. You and your spouse should also discuss what happens to property after you have both passed on. If for example, your spouse dies before you, all the property and assets would then pass to you. If your Will leaves everything to your children absent a living spouse, your spouse’s children may not inherit anything after you’re gone. Clearly, this can become a sticky situation so you’ll want to discuss it at length and decide who should get what after you’re both gone.
Assuming you do decide to create Reciprocal Wills, be sure you and your spouse both name back-up beneficiaries and be sure that your Wills agree on these designations. Should you both pass away at the same time, this will help avoid a dispute among family members.
It is also common to include a statement that your spouse must survive you by 30 days to inherit. This helps avoid inheritance tax issues if your spouse is alive for only a short time after you’ve passed. When you include this language, all property in your Will can be dispersed by your wishes rather than by your spouse’s Will.