Do you and your spouse want the same things for your estate? Then, draw up a reciprocal Will. Years ago we referred to these as “I Love You” Wills. They are not used much today, but may be appropriate for some clients.
Reciprocal Wills are essentially identical testaments that allow you and your spouse to “mirror” how your estate will be handled. You leave your estate to your spouse and your spouse leaves the estate to you. This type of document is the simplest way to plan your estate if your combined estate does not require federal estate tax payments.
A reciprocal Will also has provision for individual bequests of specific items like family mementos etc. A couple can also state in a reciprocal Will that after their death the estate should be divided equally between the surviving children.
An attorney would explain clearly how you need to plan your estate. If you state in your reciprocal Will that property should go to your children if you and your spouse die together, then you will also have to state:
- the name of a guardian for your children
- and the kind of funds available to support them
However, if a couple has children from a previous marriage then a reciprocal Will can include details of separate property also. Most states apply the Uniform Simultaneous Death Act in which case the estate is automatically transferred to the surviving spouse.
A reciprocal Will can also name a secondary beneficiary if your spouse is already deceased after you die. Like a regular Will, it includes details of debts and taxes apart from special bequests. A qualified estate planning attorney can help you draw up a reciprocal Will that meets state requirements and also protects your estate from excessive taxes.