Typically, spouses have reciprocal estate planning documents. For example, in their last wills and testaments they each provide that their property will go to their spouse, if the spouse survives. In the event the other spouse does not survive, there is typically a provision that the property will go to the couple's children or other mutually agreeable beneficiaries.

A joint last will (also called a 2-in-1 will) contains separate wills of a wife and husband in one document. This type of last will is generally not recommended because problems occur if the survivor violates the provisions of the will or signs a new last will.

Of course, there is no requirement that spouses choose the same beneficiaries or that they use the same kind of estate planning documents. For example, one spouse may choose to use a traditional will format, while the other spouse chooses a living trust combined with a pour-over will. While this type of planning is not typical, it can be done.

In some circumstances, the spouses may be independently wealthy, and therefore have no need to provide for each other. In such cases, they may want to independently choose different beneficiaries. Similarly, spouses may wish to choose different beneficiaries if they have had prior marriages, and particularly if they have children from prior marriages.

Get started Begin Your Estate Plan Answer some questions. We’ll take care of the rest.

Get started Begin Your Estate Plan Answer some questions. We’ll take care of the rest.