Reciprocal wills, also known as mutual or mirror wills, are wills made by two or more people, usually spouses or partners, that contain similar provisions and are created with the understanding that each person’s will is dependent on the others. Reciprocal wills often include provisions that mirror each other, such as leaving assets to the same beneficiaries or naming each other as executors. The idea behind reciprocal wills is that the surviving spouse will honor the agreement made with the deceased spouse and carry out the wishes expressed in their will.
Are reciprocal wills enforceable in New Hampshire?
The enforceability of reciprocal wills varies by state. In New Hampshire, whether reciprocal wills are generally enforceable is unknown.
However, in general, reciprocal wills are more likely to be enforceable when certain conditions are met. For example, the wills must clearly express the intention to be reciprocal, and they must be executed in the same manner as any other will. Additionally, there must be evidence that the parties intended to make their wills dependent on each other, such as a written agreement or correspondence between the parties.
One of the main concerns with reciprocal wills is the questions of what happens if one of the parties decides to change their will after the other has died. Normally, a person has the right to change their will at any time. This means that if one of the parties to a reciprocal will decides to change their will after the other has died, there is generally no legal recourse for the beneficiaries of the deceased party’s estate.
However, there are some limited circumstances where the beneficiaries of a deceased party’s estate may be able to enforce the terms of the original will against the estate of the surviving party. For example, if there is evidence that the surviving party breached a contract or agreement with the deceased party, such as by failing to honor the terms of the reciprocal will, the beneficiaries may be able to bring a legal action to enforce the original will. This would require proof that the parties intended to create a binding agreement and that the surviving party violated that agreement by changing their will.
Another issue people with reciprocal wills face is the inability of a spouse to change their will after a person passes away. If the parties to a reciprocal will have agreed that their wills are dependent on each other, then the surviving spouse may feel obligated to honor the terms of the deceased spouse’s will, even if their own wishes have changed. This can be particularly problematic if the surviving spouse remarries or has other significant life changes that would warrant a change in their estate plan.
To avoid these issues, it is important for individuals considering reciprocal wills to carefully to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney. At Cohen and Winters, we help ensure wills are properly executed and that the parties understand the legal implications of the agreement they are making. Additionally, we can help explore alternative estate planning strategies, such as trusts, that may better suit the needs and goals of the parties involved.
If you’re in need of assistance with estate planning, connect with our team at Cohen and Winters. We’re committed to helping clients find the best solution to their needs, so they and their families are cared for before and after they pass.