What are mirror wills and are they a good idea?
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There are a number of different kinds of will that you can make to ensure that your wishes will be carried out after you die. Whichever kind you do choose, it’s important that you do have one in place, both to make executing those wishes simpler and to ensure that your estate is distributed in the way that you want it to be.
A mirror will is an especially popular choice for both married couples and people in a civil partnership. The way that it works is simple and is largely explained by the name. The most common form of mirror will is one in which a married couple or civil partners each leave their entire estate to the person who survives them and then to any children they may have on the death of the partner. So, in effect, they are mirroring each other’s wishes.
That’s not to say that the two wills need to be identical in every respect. For example, each individual can choose to name different executors, trustees and even guardians if they have children under the age of 18. There’s also a provision to include individual requests for the sort of funeral each person would like.
Mirror wills are popular with people because they are a comparatively low-cost option as they are essentially the same legal document with only a few details changed. So, while not half the cost of drawing up two separate wills, there will be saving.
One thing that is very important to note is that, while they may be virtually identical, mirror wills are two distinct legal documents which are not linked in any meaningful way. So if you were ever to want to make changes to one of the wills, these would not also automatically apply to the other will. The person with the mirror will would have to change their as well.
This, unfortunately, is a potential drawback of this kind of will and relies on total trust between partners. If one decides to change their will it is up to them to tell their partner what changes they have made so they can adjust theirs accordingly. There have been a number of cases where one of a pair of mirror wills has been changed without the knowledge of the other partner leading to disputes.
Another feature of mirror wills to be aware about is the importance of having a substitute executor, especially when the partner is named as one too. Then, in the event of both members of the couple dying there will always be someone to execute their wishes.
While mirror wills do seem like a reasonable idea for couples in longstanding and trusting relationships, the nature of modern life also means that they need to be carefully considered before they are used. With separation and divorce leading to so-called blended families’ situations, expert legal advice is required to ensure the preferred outcome after both parties have died.
While this may be a situation which many people would be happy about it does bring into focus the importance of thinking carefully of all of the potential consequences of having a mirror will.
So while, on the surface, mirror wills may seem like a simple and common-sense approach to making sure one’s wishes are in place, consulting a solicitor about whether one would be right for you and your partner would be a very wise move.
Talk to us for guidance
At Eatons', we have a great deal of experience of advising all kinds of couples about the sorts of wills that might be most appropriate for them as well as advising on trusts and other related legal matters. So if you’d like to find out more, why not arrange an initial appointment today?
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