Joint Last Wills & Testaments

By Beverly Bird

Joint wills, also called mutual wills, are usually between a husband and wife, but can be between any two people. A joint will is essentially one will for two persons, most appropriate when they share assets. There is some debate about their advantages, since there is very little they can achieve legally beyond what two separate wills can achieve. Not all states accept them, so check with an attorney in your area if you are contemplating writing a joint will.


Typically, two individuals leave all their assets to each other in a joint will, with provisions as to what happens to the estate when the second person passes away. For instance, if a husband dies first, his wife would inherit everything they own. When the wife dies, their joint estate might pass to their children. A joint will can only be revoked by the consent of both parties while they are alive. Once one of them has passed away, the terms of a joint will cannot be changed.


A joint will ensures that the wishes of both people will be honored after their deaths. Once one spouse or party to the will dies, the surviving partner has virtually no choice but to follow through with the will’s provisions.

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A joint will can protect assets you have worked hard toward from passing to someone unrelated to you after your death. For instance, if a surviving spouse remarries without a joint will, she could leave her entire estate, presumably inherited from her first husband, to her new husband even though her deceased husband invested years of his life into accumulating the assets. A joint will is one way to ensure that your assets will pass to your children, or someone else of your choosing, rather than your spouse’s new partner.


Because a joint will can’t be changed after one of the parties dies, the other party is stuck with its terms. Not only is he restricted as to what he can leave to his new spouse if he remarries, but neither can he provide for a faithful caretaker who might tend to him through years of illness in his advancing years if that caretaker came along after the first partner’s death and was not included in the original will. If he would be better off in a nursing home or smaller dwelling, the house he shared with his spouse cannot be sold to pay for more appropriate living arrangements if it is an asset in the joint will. The surviving partner cannot sell any of the joint assets if he needs money or to make a gift to his children before his death if one of them is in need.

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Examples of Legal Wills


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Joint Living Trust Disadvantages

A living trust is a means by which property is held for the benefit of one or more persons, other than the person who created the trust. A living trust is a popular alternative to leaving property to an intended beneficiary though a will, which requires probate. A joint living trust exists when two or more persons create a single trust and transfer some or all of their property into the trust. The persons who create the trust are known as the grantors, while the person who manages the trust is known as the trustee. In the case of a joint trust, both grantors are typically trustees. Although a joint living trust may have significant advantages in some situations, there can be some disadvantages to creating it. Consider using the services of an online document preparation company to create your will or trust.

Joint Executors of Wills in Pennsylvania

An executor is the person named in a will to administer the estate when the will maker, or testator, dies. An executor should be trustworthy and financially responsible, as his role includes paying all the bills involved in the estate, distributing property, communicating with beneficiaries and heirs, and filing forms with the probate court, the IRS and other agencies. Pennsylvania law does not restrict the number of people you can name as joint executors.

Does a Joint Tenancy Bypass Probate?

A joint tenancy is a form of property ownership in which two or more people own the assets together, including the right of survivorship. When a joint tenant dies, the jointly held asset passes to his surviving joint tenant, bypassing probate court. Many types of assets may be held as joint tenancies, such as real estate assets, bank accounts, and stocks and bonds.

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