Should You And Your Spouse Have A Standard, Joint, Or Mirror Will?

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Every American adult should have a will in place. After all, life can change dramatically in an instant. But should a married couple have a joint will, standard wills, or mirror wills? To help you decide, here's what you need to know about all three options. 

1. Standard Will

A standard will is designed only to reflect the wishes of the individual who drafts it. The testator is free to choose their own path when it comes to who gets what, when, and how. They may keep the details of their own will confidential from anyone—including their spouse or partner. 

A standard will is the easiest for anyone to draw up, but it can cause problems if the person doesn't take into consideration the plans of their spouse's will. If drawing up a standard will, it's best to at least discuss what each partner's wishes are, regardless of the level of detail. 

2. Joint Will

If you and your spouse are in agreement about what should happen after one or both of you passes away, you may opt to save time and money by drafting just one will. Called a joint will, this document is changeable until the first testator dies. At that point, it is set in stone.  

It's easy to see the primary downside to joint will: irrevocability. The surviving spouse cannot change their will to account for remarriage, children becoming adults, new children or grandchildren being born, or a change in estate size. 

Research your state's laws about joint wills. Not all states recognize them, and probate courts are more likely to set these aside than standard wills. 

3. Mirror Will

A good compromise between the single and joint will is a mirror will. As its name indicates, this is a will whose instructions are the same as the spouse's or partner's will. This is predicated on the idea that a couple often wishes for the same outcome for their estate no matter which partner dies first. 

Mirror wills, then, allow you to coordinate planning with your spouse so that you achieve the best results as a family unit. Both parties know what to expect as well. However, unlike joint wills, the surviving spouse can change their will at any time. 

Where to Learn More

How you and your spouse manage your wills is key to successfully protecting your legacy and caring for loved ones. For more information, visit a law firm's website, such as