Your attorney advised you well. A joint will is one document that distributes the assets of both husband and wife. When the first spouse dies, the will is taken through probate for that spouse, and then when the second spouse dies, the will is taken through probate for the second spouse.
The drawbacks of a joint will far outweigh the benefits. On the plus side, a joint will prevents the surviving spouse from changing how assets are distributed after the first spouse dies. For example, if the surviving spouse remarries, he is prevented from disinheriting his children from his first marriage. The inability to amend a joint will after the first spouse dies is also its main drawback. There are often very good reasons why a will should be amended after the first spouse dies, especially if the surviving spouse lives for many more years. Quite simply, circumstances change, and so too should a will be able to change. For example:
- A child who will receive state aid due to an injury or illness should be disinherited so as not to lose those benefits;
- If one of your children becomes wealthy, you may decide your other children would benefit more from an inheritance;
- If your favorite charity when you created the will runs into problems down the road, you may not want to donate money to that charity; and
- You may change churches and decide that your new church should receive money when you die instead of the church you named as beneficiary many years before.