Is a Reciprocal Will Right for You?

Nov 8, 2010

For some married couples, their estate plan may never go beyond a basic Reciprocal Will. The purpose of a Reciprocal Will, sometimes called an “I Love You Will”, is to make estate planning simple by leaving everything to one spouse upon the death of the other spouse.

A Reciprocal Will may be a quick and easy estate plan that could save you money. If, however, you are part of a blended family, are concerned about long term care costs or your estate may be susceptible to taxes, you may want to consider a different estate plan.


There are several disadvantages to using a Reciprocal Will. Such a Will is so basic that it does not cover special circumstances. For Example, a Reciprocal Will does not address estate tax planning. In 2011, estates worth more than one million dollars are expected to owe estate taxes. If you are among those affected, your Reciprocal Will could diminish your children’s inheritances.

A Reciprocal Will also does not cover the situation of current or future blended families. What if you pass away and your spouse creates a Reciprocal Will with a future spouse. If your spouse passes away before that future spouse, your children will be left with nothing.

Reciprocal Wills also do not help with future divorces. If a remaining spouse remarries and then divorces, the assets you left to your spouse may be affected by this divorce settlement.

There are alternatives that help protect your estate from the disadvantages of Reciprocal Wills: a comprehensive Will or a Revocable Living Trust. With those documents, your marital estate will be split to avoid taxes. Once the estate holdings of the first deceased spouse are in the B Trust, those assets cannot be touched by divorcing spouses and they cannot be left to anyone but the beneficiaries stated by the deceased spouse.

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