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Should a married couple set up a joint or separate will?

It's common that Tennessee residents do not begin thinking about estate planning until after they get married and start a family of their own. In the case of spouses, though, they will have the option of setting up a joint will or separate wills. This may cause you to wonder which route is better? Should you and your spouse combine your estate planning in a joint will, or should you keep your estates separated?

In most cases, estate planning lawyers will advise spouses to create separate wills. This is primarily because it's improbable that two spouses will die at the same time. It's also since you and your spouse probably have a lot of individual property that isn't a part of your marital estate. For this reason, separate wills are a more practical estate planning solution -- even if both of your spouse's wills end up looking nearly the same.

One of the benefits of having separate wills is the fact that you can safeguard the inheritances of children from former partners. You can also address property that you may have acquired before your marriage or during a previous marriage.

In particular, separate wills allow for each spouse to address issues such as ex-spouses and children from previous relationships. Ditto for property that was obtained during a previous marriage. Be very clear about who gets what. Probate laws generally favor the current spouse.

If you want to make sure you've planned you and your spouse's estates the right way, you may wish to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney. An estate planning lawyer will assist you in determining the most relevant estate planning solutions for your needs.

Source: AARP, "10 Things You Should Know About Writing a Will," Brett Widness, accessed Sep. 28, 2017

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