What Is a Mirror Will?
A Mirror Will is when a husband and wife or partner make almost identical wills leaving, for example, everything to each other respectively, should one partner die and if both die together then direct to children. If there are no children, then to a named beneficiary.
It is not possible to have a joint Will, they must be individual wills, so in effect they are separate legal documents with similar contents.
The respective partners usually become both sole beneficiary and sole executor to each other.
When writing a Mirror Will in this way, it is essential to add at least one extra executor and beneficiary to each Will to safeguard the estate in the event that both should die together. The second executor and beneficiary can be the same person in both Wills, or you may chose to have different executors i.e. one of your siblings to look after your affairs should you both die together and vice versa. Naming different guardians in your Wills could lead to problems unless directed properly and given considerable thought.
Mirror Wills “v” Mutual Wills
Spouses and/or partners who chose to make identical Wills should be aware of the difference between Mirror and Mutual Wills. A Mutual Will is written in such a way, with stipulations included within it, in which both testators agree that the survivor’s Last Will is to remain unchanged after the death of the first to die. A Mirror Will has no such stipulation or clause within it.
Some people become interested in the possibility of drawing up mutual Wills with their partner or spouse. These Wills are identical and the effect of executing such a Will is that after the death of the first to die, the Will of the survivor cannot be revoked. However, we do not recommend that you seek to execute Mutual Wills, as there are many pitfalls involved. In particular, it is open to either party to revoke the Will whilst both parties are still alive, without informing the other party. The effect of this would be to remove the mutuality of the Wills. There is no such agreement with Mirror Wills, with no such stipulations or clause included within it.
A Will that leaves everything to the testators spouse
A Will that leaves everything to the testators spouse will ensure that the surviving spouse is provided for as far as possible. However, the testator has no control over the ultimate destination of the property and must trust the surviving spouse to make appropriate dispositions should he or she die first, especially if they have children. There is a danger of accidental disinheritance of children where a surviving spouse remarries, without realising that marriage automatically revokes an earlier Last Will (except in very limited circumstances). For example, if the surviving spouse has made a Will providing for the children of the first marriage, but then remarries, the Will in favour of her children would fail, benefiting the new spouse who would inherit under the Law of Intestacy, therefore, accidentally disinheriting the children of the first marriage.
Testators often feel anxious about this problem, wanting to ensure adequate provision for the spouse but still feeling that if they died prematurely, and the survivor remarried, possibly having additional children, then his children would be deprived of what he would consider their lawful inheritance. This problem is often one of human relationships and is incapable of being satisfactorily resolved by legal formula. A provision in a Will relating to remarriage would probably be ineffective, as society does not prohibit cohabitation, so any such clause could prove difficult to enforce. The solution available is a clause involving the use of a life interest.
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