Wills Series Part XII: Reciprocal Wills

As stated in Part VI of this series, entitled “Beneficiary and Personal Representative,” married couples will often execute wills naming each other as both the personal representative and usually the primary beneficiary of his or her estate. Wills of this nature are generally called reciprocal wills.


The benefit of reciprocal wills is the assurance that your surviving spouse will receive the bulk, if not all, of  your estate after your death. This will-based set up can also allow for the creation of a more specific estate plan for the surviving spouse, once she becomes the sole owner of the former marital property.


Reciprocal wills are a relatively basic form of estate planning. Married couples have many other options including the use of trusts to potentially protect assets from probate, creditors, and estate taxes. The combination of trusts and pour-over wills is a powerful estate planning tool for married couples. For more on trusts, please refer to the Trusts Series of this blog. For more on pour-over wills, please refer to Part XI of this Wills Series.

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