Reciprocal wills, which are mostly used by married people, are mirror images of each other. These wills generally secure the transfer of property from one spouse to another after death. The general setup is that each spouse leaves all or the majority of their assets to the other spouse.
For typical reciprocal wills, there are provisions for bequeathing specific items to other beneficiaries with the rest going to the spouse. For example, if you have a few items you wish to pass to your siblings, you can note that in your reciprocal will and leave the rest for your partner.
It looks like a neat way of writing a will, especially if you want the majority of your assets to go to your spouse. However, it does have its limitations, which include these three:
It Complicates Matters If You Have Many Beneficiaries
As explained above, a reciprocal will is usually used to bequeath specific items to some beneficiaries, and the rest is left to the spouse. This is only practical if you are dealing with a few beneficiaries, say a sibling, an uncle, a charity group and an in-law. Imagine how impractical it would be to do this if you have a long list of items to distribute to a list of beneficiaries. In such a case, you are better off with other types of wills.
May Not Be Ideal For Those with Successive Marriages
A reciprocal will rarely fit couples in complex marriages. Consider an example where you have children from previous marriages, don't have children with your current partner, and have joint assets with other parties, among similar complexities.
Such a complex relationship isn't unusually, especially in this error where people have successive marriages. What happens if you want to consider your children from your previous marriages? The reciprocal will might not work if you don't just want to dish them a few goodies. After all, if you just leave it all to your former spouse, there is no guarantee that they will pass the assets to your children.
It Is Not a Binding Agreement
Since reciprocal wills aren't contracts; there is nothing to prevent your spouse from modifying their will after your demise. Unfortunately, that can create special problems for your loved ones. For example, if you have children, you may make reciprocal wills that bequeath valuable items to the children.
For example, in your reciprocal wills, you may bequeath your family business to your kids. However, your partner might chance their will and bequeath the share of the business to other beneficiaries after your demise.
As you can see, these wills aren't for everybody. Therefore, consult an estate planning attorney and go over your unique family and financial circumstances before choosing the type of will to write.