What is a mirror will?
There are two types of joint wills: mirror wills and mutual wills.
In England and Wales, mirror wills are a type of will where the wishes of one person largely reflect the wishes of the other – hence the name ‘mirror’. Generally – but not always – two people will leave everything they own to each other.
The result is that everything goes to the surviving person when one of them passes away. The two people will also generally agree on where everything goes when the second person passes away, or if they die at the same time.
Before you both begin, find out what to consider when making a will.
Who can have a mirror will?
Mirror wills are popular for couples because they allow the surviving person to inherit everything from the deceased person, and for it to then be given away in a manner they both agreed to after the second person dies (for example, splitting between the couple’s children).
If you’re in a long-term relationship, engaged, married or in a civil partnership, a mirror will might be a good idea – particularly if you have children. However, your wishes for what happens to your estate must be aligned with your partner’s.
If you and your partner want different things, it’s probably best to draft an individual will.
What are the advantages of mirror wills?
There are many benefits to making mirror wills with your partner, for example:
- Your partner inherits everything. By making a mirror will you are ensuring the financial security of your partner if you pass away first. This is especially important if you’re not married, as they might not be legally entitled to inherit your assets.
- You’ll be providing for your children. If you and your partner have children, making a mirror will ensures they inherit your estate once you and your partner have both passed away. You can also protect your children by appointing a guardian, should both you and your partner pass away before they reach the age of 18, and a trustee to protect your estate until your children are old enough to inherit it.
- You can name additional executors. Usually, with a mirror will, your partner will be the sole beneficiary as well as the executor. However that means that you can appoint additional executors, so that if you and your partner die at the same time both your wishes can still be carried out.
- They don’t have to be identical. Although the key feature of mirror wills are that both partners wishes are the same, they can have some small differences – for example additional executors or differing funeral arrangements.
- You can avoid inheritance tax. With inheritance tax, usually everything inherited from one spouse to another is tax free, and this benefit is then transferred to the surviving spouse. So when the second spouse dies, all their assets (including that which they’ve inherited from their deceased spouse) can be passed on with twice the inheritance tax-free allowance.
- It can be revoked if circumstances change. If your relationship status changes, an additional executor dies, or you just change your mind, you can update or revoke your mirror will at any time.
What are the disadvantages of mirror wills?
Although a couple’s wishes might be identical, their wills are theirs alone. Any changes to one of the mirror wills will not automatically update the other and the person who changes the will is not legally obligated to tell the other person – therefore being able to trust your partner is imperative.
You must be able to be sure that after your death your partner will not change their will and pass on your estate to people you didn’t want to receive it – for example, a new partner, or new children – as this may leave your chosen beneficiaries without the inheritance they were expecting.
If you and your partner’s wishes are aligned and likely to stay that way, mirror wills could be a great option to safeguard your family’s financial future. However you should seek legal advice to ensure a joint will is the best option for you.