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Mirror Wills

Guide to making a Mirror Will with Redwood Financial

Mirror Wills are one of many Estate Planning solutions available in England and Wales and provided they are set up in the most efficient and effective way, Mirror Wills are a great way to put some basic Estate Planning protections in place.

However, there are some complexities to be aware of when considering if a Mirror Will is the right solution for you and your partner that can make this type of Estate Planning disastrous in the longer term. We would always recommend you seek professional legal advice from Redwood before you put your Mirror Wills in place.

What are Mirror Wills?

Most couples want to leave everything they own to their surviving partner or spouse if they die first. Mirror Wills are drafted in a way that makes each of the clauses within them identical and reciprocal in each partner’s Will: effectively ‘mirroring’ the couple wishes.

For example, Mr Redwood’s Will might specify: ‘I give everything to my wife upon my death, but if she dies before me it goes to my children.’

Mrs Redwood’s Will would then say: ‘I give everything to my husband upon my death, but if he dies before me it goes to my children.’

What are the benefits of having Mirror Wills?

As Mirror Wills are effectively identical Wills, they cost less to draft because the creator is effectively only doing the job once.

Mirror Wills are one of the most common purchases made from an Online Will Writing Service as they are a cost-effective, quick and relatively simple way to put some basic Estate Planning in place for both parties.

What are the risks of Mirror Wills?

From the description above about what Mirror Wills are, it is easy to understand why so many couples choose to make Mirror Wills. The concept is simple to understand and it seems totally logical to believe you are doing the best thing to protect your surviving spouse or partner should your death have preceded theirs.

1. Mirror Wills need to be kept up-to-date

While Mirror Wills are identical Wills, they are also separate documents that are created in each partner’s own name. That means they must be kept up to date, with changes in one Will also needing to be made in the other. This could start to make them more costly over time than first thought.

2. Changes can be made to each Mirror Will individually 

By being totally independent legal documents, either party is free to make changes to their Mirror Will without ever informing the other. In a worst-case scenario, one person could re-write their Will, totally exclude the other party or jointly agreed on family members who were named as beneficiaries on the original Mirror Will, and no one including the surviving partner would know until the point of death.

3. Personal wealth could be used for care fees

Let’s consider our earlier example again, with Mr Redwood’s Will specifying: ‘I give everything to my wife upon my death, but if she dies before me it goes to my children,’ and Mrs Redwood’s Will saying: ‘I give everything to my husband upon my death, but if he dies before me it goes to my children.’

Again this seems perfectly reasonable and what we would probably all want to see happen with our own assets and wealth when we pass. But what if Mr Redwood needs to go into care in his later years? Maybe he survives a further 5 years in care before dying and the Will becoming effective.

Without the financial means to fund his care during his remaining life, Mrs Redwood will be faced with the prospect of a debt being rolled up against Mr Redwood’s share of the Estate until his death.

It will shock many people to learn that under the provisions of the 1993 Community Care Act, the Local Authority has the power to use peoples’ finances and assets towards the cost of their care, where a person’s total assets (including the value of their home) amount to more than £23,250 (£26,250 in Scotland or £24,000 in Wales).

It is only after this debt is paid from Mr Redwood’s Estate that any remaining assets will be divided up as instructed in the Mirror Will if in fact there is anything left at this point!

By leaving your Estate to your partner, both your share and their share of the assets will be used to pay for Care Fees and could result in all of the wealth being whittled away and out of the family bloodline.

4. Mirror Wills can cause inheritance complications

We have already talked about how a couple’s Mirror Wills are theirs alone and that either party is free to amend or replace their Will at any time. One of the more surprising risks is a surviving partner re-writing their Will later after death, completely excluding the deceased’s surviving children, family and beneficiaries from any inheritance.

Using our example of Mr Redwood’s Will again, in which he specified: ‘I give everything to my wife upon my death, but if she dies before me it goes to my children,’ and Mrs Redwood’s Will saying: ‘I give everything to my husband upon my death, but if he dies before me it goes to my children.’

Now consider that this was a second marriage for Mr Redwood and he had children from his first marriage that he expected to receive a share of his Estate after his and Mrs Redwood’s death. Now lets he passes away in his early 50’s and that after a few years, Mrs Redwood meets a new partner and remarries. Time goes by a few more years and her relationship with her step-children from her marriage to Mr Redwood falls by the wayside. Mrs Redwood is perfectly and legally entitled to write a new Will that leaves everything she owns, include the inheritance she received from Mr Redwood upon his death, to her new husband and indeed anyone else she wants to leave it to. She can effectively write Mr Redwood’s children out of any rightful inheritance!

Mitigating the Risks of Mirror Wills

The great news is that with the right professional legal advice like that provided by us here at Redwood can mitigate these risks and create the protections you and your partner always envisaged when you embarked on your Estate Planning journey.

Trust Wills allow you and your partner to leave your respective shares of property, money and assets to a Trust rather than a named person or persons. Through the terms of the Trust, you can allow the surviving partner to benefit from the Trusts assets. While they don’t own these assets in their own name, they can use them as they see fit until their own passing.

At that point, their assets are valued and totalled for Probate and any outstanding debts are settles before Probate is granted. That includes any assets used from the Trust which must be repaid as if it were a debt. If there is insufficient value left in the Estate to settle the debt, any balance is written off and the debt is rescinded. Any value in or paid back to the Trust is then shared as per the couples original wishes detailed in their Mirror Wills.

Owning your property in the right way

For this type of Trust Will to be valid with a Mirror Will, requires that the couple home is held as Tenants in Common rather than as Joint Tenants.

By being held as Tenants in Common, each partner holds a distinct and defined share of the property, usually 50% each. So, following the death of one person, the other retains their own 50% share of the property in their own right, and the deceased share can pass to the Trust Will for protection.

Had it remained as Joint Tennants, the surviving spouse would have received the deceased’s share of the Estate directly, inflating their own Estate value and increasing the risk and likelihood of future attacks on their Estate value through Inheritance Tax, Care Fee Assessment and future relationship breakdowns, marriages and deaths.

Why make a Mirror Will with Redwood Financial?

At Redwood, we understand the complexities inherent in all aspects of Estate Planning, including Mirror Wills and how to mitigate the risks across a broad selection of Estate and Financial Planning solutions.

Although a couple’s wishes may be identical at the time of drafting their Mirror Wills, we can ensure that the Wills are created to provide longevity and a robustness that respects the original intentions of the couple when they decided to draft their Wills.

We have award-winning extensive experience in the field of Estate Planning, achieved over decades of helping our Clients to grown, protect and enjoy their wealth.

How can I make a Mirror Will with Redwood?

Our starting point for any Estate Planning journey is education. We are passionate about helping our Clients to understand this topic in detail yet in plain English way before they ever agree to work with us. Our Philosophy is simple: you can’t make an informed decision without feeling informed!

Our free Wills, Trusts & Estate Planning Webinar is the best place to understand the foundations of Estate Planning.

If you have any existing Estate Planning, including Mirror Wills that you would like reviewed, we also offer a free Will Review Meeting.

Once you are ready to start your Estate Planning journey to can book an Initial Meeting with a professional adviser, which we can offer as an In-Office, Telephone or Video Meeting.

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Steven Blofield
Steve is the Director and Senior Estate Planner at Redwood Financial. He helps Clients to manage and grow their wealth and protect their estate.
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