What Is a Mirror Will?
A mirror will is designed for a couple. Two partners have identical wills that mirror the wishes of the other. Mirror wills are convenient and can save money, but also come with some risks.
Often, partners want the same things to happen to their estate after they die. A husband might want all his money to go to his husband or wife. A wife might want of all her money and property to be passed on to her spouse.
If both partners die at the same time, they might have the same plans for their estates. They may want all their property to go to their children, a trusted friend or specific charity.
Learn more about a mirror will and how they can be used to good effect.
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What Is a Mirror Will?
A mirror will reflects the identical wishes of two people in a partnership. They’re suited to couples that have the same plans for their estates after they die. If one partner outlives the other, they’ll receive their partner’s estate. If both partners die at the exact same time, they both agree with where their property will go. After the death of one partner, the other will continues and applies just the same in the future. When the remaining partner passes away, the inheritance will be passed on.
Mirror wills follow a common pattern. The estate first goes to the surviving partner, then later to other recipients. At the time of writing, both partners will agree with what happens once they’ve both passed away.
Mirror wills are a popular choice for couples with children of their own, where both partners agree to give each other their money and property. If they both pass away, the property is passed to their children. You don’t need dependents to choose a mirror will, as you might instead agree to make a certain charity or specific friend your beneficiary.
Don’t forget to store your wills correctly. You can register them with the Probate service, or just keep copies safe at home.
Benefits of Mirror Wills
Mirror wills are quick and easy to set up, which means that they can help you save money. Once one will has been written, the other is simply a copy of the first with very few changes required.
If both partners are firmly on the same page, getting mirror wills could be a lot easier than having two separate wills written up. And this is key – it can help you both be sure that you are on the same page. It’s reassuring to both know that your wills are identical.
Usually, will writers and solicitors offer discounted rates for mirror wills. They involve far less effort, so getting mirror wills is quicker and often more affordable.
Drawbacks of Mirror Wills
Mirror wills aren’t perfect. There are risks involved, and it’s important to be aware of them. Namely, if you agree a mirror will, but you’re the first to pass away, then your partner could get their will changed.
Mirror wills can cause a false sense of security, helping you feel that your estate is taken care of even if you’re the first to die. In reality, your partner will still have the option to change their plans after you’re gone. If you hoped to leave everything to your partner, for it then to be passed to your children, there is technically nothing to stop your partner from writing the kids out of the will.
If you want to be sure that your children get inheritance, it’s typically best to get an independent will that specifies these wishes directly.
When Can a Mirror Will Be Changed?
Whilst it’s less likely than after your death, your partner could make changes to a mirror will whilst you’re still alive. Legally, it’s not a requirement that you’ll be told about adjustments.
Mirror wills are written at the same time, and are copies at the time they’re created, but after this, they count as two separate legal documents so one partner can make changes if they want.
What Happens if a Mirror Will Is Changed?
There are many cases of mirror wills being changed when one partner dies. This can be a particular risk if you have a blended family.
If a husband and wife both have children of their own from their previous relationships, they might agree that their money is split equally after they’ve both passed away. With a mirror will, after one partner has died, the remaining one might write their partner’s children out of the will. Legally, this doesn’t break any rules, and some children could be left with no inheritance.
Mirror wills can be the cause of long-lasting legal disputes, but with the law favouring the remaining partner, there’s a good chance that some are left with nothing.
Alternatives to Mirror Wills
Many people worry about the risks of mirror wills but don’t understand the alternatives. With mirror wills being relatively cheap, it’s tempting to accept the risks involved.If cost is an issue, a DIY will or online will writing service may be better. There are further risks to these, but if they’re written carefully then they should be completely valid.
If cost isn’t a problem, it may be better to get two separate wills written up. Make it clear in your will that you want to split your money between your partner and your children, so that they get their share regardless of your partner’s future decisions.
If you’re at all worried, speak to a solicitor for advice about writing a will. They understand the complexities of wills and can help you to choose your best option.
Reducing the Risks of Mirror Wills
If you’ve decided that a mirror will is best, accepting the risks that they involve, there are still ways to reduce the chance that your partner will make changes once you’re gone.
When creating your will, get everyone together to talk through your after-death plans. With everyone present, tell the beneficiaries what they can expect once you’re gone. Make sure that your children know that they’re included, and what share of your estate they will be getting. This can make it more difficult for a partner to make changes to their will after you’ve passed away.
A partner can quite easily adjust a will if nobody knows what you’d decided. Once there are more people aware of your wishes, it’s more difficult to make those subtle changes.
Are Mirror Wills Permanent?
If circumstances change, for example after a break-up, mirror wills can be revoked. Your mirror will doesn’t tie you to your partner, so you can change yours at any time. You have the option to revoke your mirror will and draft up a brand new document.
If you didn’t understand the risks of mirror wills before you had your will written up, there is absolutely nothing that’s stopping you from revoking your mirror will today.
Meanwhile, your mirror will can last as long as you want. If you’re confident that your partner will continue to want the same as you, having a mirror will could be the cheapest, most convenient way to get your wishes onto paper.
Should I Take Legal Advice About a Mirror Will?
As covered above, there are many issues to take into consideration with regards to mirror wills. The whole basis of this approach is that each party will have their (identical) wishes granted upon their death. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, but there may be alternatives to consider.
Ensuring your wishes are respected. Death and the grieving process can be very challenging times, and this scenario is one of the more common reasons for family disputes. So, if there is a way to ensure that your wishes are granted watertight legal status, it may be worth considering.
On occasion legal advice may be to ditch mirror wills, even looking towards setting up a trust where the wishes of the individuals are set in stone. In summary, mirror wills are very attractive for many people, relatively simple and inexpensive. However, they do have their drawbacks!
The Legal and Moral Issues Surrounding Mirror Wills
When looking at mirror wills, there are two very different ways in which to consider and respect the process. From a legal point of view, if one of the individuals dies and their estate is taken on by their remaining spouse, they have every right to make changes to their previous mirror will.
From a moral point of view, many people will create mirror wills which will eventually see their estate passed down to their children. As we touched on above, from a legal standpoint, the surviving partner can rewrite their will at any time, in a very different way to the previous mirror will. It is not difficult to see how this may cause significant problems within families.
Do I Really Need a Will?
Recent research shows that more than half of the adult population in the UK don’t have a will in place. In the event that you were to die in England and Wales without a will, the courts would decide how your estate would be distributed.
This process is relatively straightforward and would involve elements of your wider family. If you were to die without a will, and no direct family, in England and Wales, all of your assets would go to the Crown. This is why it is very important to address the issue of wills at a relatively early stage.
Is It Ever Too Early to Have a Will?
If you are aged 18 or over, you have the legal capacity to create a will. It is safe to say that the scenario surrounding your will might change significantly in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and beyond. Therefore, it may be sensible to review your will each year ideally aside a financial review of your assets, income, etc.
Rather than making amendments to an existing will, sometimes it is simpler to create a new will. However, as we mentioned above, you must ensure that all copies of your previous will have been destroyed!
While the subject of wills, estates and death are uncomfortable at best, this is a conversation you need to have to ensure that your loved ones are provided for in the event of your death.
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