Many Texas married couples or exclusively committed partners use the estate planning process to protect their assets in the event that one or the other of them should die. There are numerous types of documents that might fit a particular person’s needs and estate goals. Some couples determine that signing mutual wills is the best way to go, although this term is not to be confused with a joint or reciprocal will, which are also options for those who are getting their estates in order.
There are several things to keep in mind in order to determine if mutual wills would be beneficial to a particular couple, either married or not. To seek clarification regarding state laws and regulations that govern the signing of a will, it is helpful to meet with an experienced estate law attorney before executing an estate plan. In some cases, certain documents are irrevocable, meaning that they cannot be changed once they are signed.
Mutual wills are separate documents
If a couple signs a joint will, it means that each partner has added his or her signature to the same document. One of the main differences between a joint will and mutual wills is that the latter involves two (or more) separate documents, as opposed to a single document with multiple signatures. In other words, if you and your spouse or partner choose to sign mutual wills, you will each be signing a separate document. However, if you sign mutual wills and your partner dies, you are bound to the terms of his or her will.
Making sure that assets pass to a decedent’s children rather than a new spouse
One of the main reasons for signing mutual wills is to make sure that your children will be the ones who inherit assets after you and their other parent have passed away, rather than assets going to a new spouse if one of you remarries after the other one dies. The assets you list in a mutual will must be assets that you and your spouse jointly own. You may also list contingent beneficiaries in a mutual will, meaning someone other than your children, in case they should die before you.
Spouses or partners typically name each other as executor
Mutual wills, also known as “mirror wills,” require an executor. Since you and your partner will be signing separate documents while being bound to the terms of both documents, you will each need to designate an executor. In most cases, spouses or committed partners typically name each other as executors and sole beneficiaries, with children designated as contingent beneficiaries.
No changes can be made after a spouse dies
If you’re the surviving spouse or partner in a couple who has signed mutual wills, you are not allowed to change the terms of the wills after your spouse or partner has died. If changes are to be made, they must be made while you’re both still alive and of sound mind and in agreement with the suggested changes. Estate planning issues, especially those regarding mutual wills, can be complex. This is why it’s best to seek guidance and supportfrom someone who is well-versed in this area of law before implementing a specific plan.