Most people know to use a will to pass their property on to their loved ones after death. Having a will protects your loved ones, so you may think that having multiple wills can provide clearer instructions and greater protections for them when you pass. However, having more than one will can create some problems for you that you didn’t expect.
Let’s take a look at some reasons why you may want to have multiple wills and then discuss how they may affect your estate plan.
There are several reasons why you might want to have multiple wills. Below are some of the common reasons you might be considering multiple wills.
A will deals with the property that is in the state where it is written. It names a personal representative who is responsible for carrying out the instructions in the will. At the time of your passing, the personal representative opens a probate case in the state and county where you resided. Your personal representative might also have to open a separate probate case in the state where you have other property. This is known as ancillary probate, which is supplemental to the main probate case. This is because of a legal concept known as jurisdiction. The court must have the authority to deal with the issues in front of it. A probate court can only make orders regarding property within its own borders. The will would have to be probated in the other state for that court to make orders about the property located there. Some people may make a different will for each state or country where they have property so that there is a separate will to address property that is just within that specific state or country.
You may have multiple wills because some states or countries provide better tax treatment than others. However, if your estate plan is not carefully structured, property that you own in another country may be subject to tax in the United States and the foreign country. Some countries charge a higher tax rate to pass property to someone who lives in a different country. You may try to avoid higher tax rates by making a separate will with more favorable tax treatment.
After you make your will, you may want to add new instructions, so you may want to use a second will to supplement a previous one you wrote.
If you make more than one will at a time, you can put your entire estate plan in jeopardy if you’re not careful. Some risks of having more than one will include:
There are ways that you can likely accomplish your estate planning goals without having to resort to making multiple wills. Some options include:
If you own property in multiple countries, you might consider an international will, which is a will that is considered valid in countries that signed the Uniform International Wills Act. According to the Act, some of the requirements of a valid international will include:
A trust can address property that is in other areas. Having a trust can also help you avoid the expensive and time-consuming probate process. A trust is a private document, so it also helps protect your privacy. It’s also easy to make changes to a trust, unlike a will that you have to revoke or follow special rules to change. Try out Nolo’s simple Online Living Trust to create clear instructions for your loved ones.
If you own property as joint tenants with the right of survivorship, this property passes outside of the probate process. When you pass away, the other owner may just have to provide proof of your death to have the property transferred to him or her. This type of ownership can help eliminate the need for ancillary probate.
If you want to have multiple wills drafted by an attorney, your attorneys should be aware of the other will and work together to ensure that the two documents can work together. You can talk to an attorney about ways to avoid probate and the need for multiple wills. If you prefer to make your own will, you can use Quicken WillMaker Plus.