It is very common for couples to have simple mirrored or reciprocal wills that name each other as the beneficiary of the other’s estate. These are sometimes called ‘I Love You Wills’, because of the inherent romantic implication that the couples intend to love each other until they die. It’s heartwarming, but to determine whether such a will is right for your situation a couple should go over the benefits and drawbacks of reciprocal wills.
The major benefit of ‘I Love You Wills’ is that they are very simple and easy to understand, they are also inexpensive to create. For example, a simple reciprocal will can set out that all assets go to the surviving spouse and at the spouse’s death, to the children. Having such a document in place clearly sets out that the couple intends to override laws that dictate what happens if you die without a will, these are also known ’intestacy’ laws. Each jurisdiction has their own intestacy laws, and for more information please read my blog about “What happens if you die without a Will”.
Reciprocal wills allow you to appoint guardians for minor children, should you both pass away at the some time. This is often a difficult decision for parents, which is why I have highlighted some things to reflect upon when making your decision in my blog “7 Considerations When Naming a Guardian for Minors”. Also, reciprocal wills allow you to name an Executor to administer the estate. An online app can make it easy for you to assign your partner as an executor if you wish. The person you appoint as an executor, or persons should you appoint joint executors, should be trustworthy and competent to do the job.
Here is a short list things to note when you are deciding whether an ‘I Love You Will’ is right for you and your sweetheart:
Property Held Jointly
Property that is held jointly, such as a jointly owned home passes outside the estate. Similarly, property with a designated beneficiary, such as a life insurance policy also pass outside the estate. In general, these types of assets are not controlled by a reciprocal will.
Love After Love
Just like some romance, a Will doesn’t always last forever. If a partner remarries after one partner passes away then the mirrored will automatically become invalid. In this situation children will likely be unintentionally disinherited upon remarriage and the new couple to may choose create new documents.
A reciprocal will does not include federal estate tax planning, which may be a concern for people with larger estates. Similarly, most financial institutions require that a Will be probated. It is important to note, that for complicated estates this step in estate administration can be a difficult process and you may require guidance.
Special Protection for Beneficiaries
Sometimes beneficiaries require special asset protections. This can be the case where a beneficiary is disabled or has special needs. In cases of vulnerable dependents, a simple reciprocal might not include the desired extra protections.
Even though estate planning isn’t what most people consider a romantic gesture, the peace of mind a reciprocal will can provide is certainly something every couple can appreciate. That is to say that an ‘I Love you Will’ can be a sweet and quirky way of saying “I want to spend the rest of our lives together”, and it doesn’t get more romantic than that. Tell your special someone you’re thinking of the by getting started with the Couples Plan from Om at om.company.com/vault.