What is a Mirror Will?
Mirror Wills are virtually identical Wills where one person in a couple leaves their Estate to the other in the event of their death. The most common Mirror Wills are when one Spouse leaves everything to their Spouse and then to their children. The other Spouse’s Will is similar, in that they leave everything to the other Spouse and then to the children.
The result is that when one of them dies, the other receives all the wealth, and upon the second death, the children inherit the assets.
When should Mirror Wills be written?
Mirror Wills should be written as soon as possible, particularly if you have children. If you are engaged, in a marriage or civil partnership and both of you want your assets to go to the same people when you pass away, you should consider making Mirror Wills. If neither partner wants the same thing and you have different beneficiaries, then you can both make individual Wills.
Is a Mirror Will a good idea?
A Mirror Will is a good solution for many people. The main advantage is that if a couple have similar wishes about what happens to their estate when they pass away, a Mirror Will is quick and easy to set up. This is because although two legal documents are drawn up, they are almost identical in every way, often making Mirror Wills far more cost effective than having two separate Wills drafted.
A couple may have similar wishes, but each person can still stipulate their own preference for who they would like to appoint as their executors, trustees, or guardians.
There can be Complications with Mirror Will though
People are often mistaken in thinking that their wishes will be honoured when they die, however Mirror Wills can be changed at any time, without the other person knowing. For example, if one person in a couple passes away and the survivor remarries, they can change their Will and leave everything to their new spouse, rather than their children.
Mirror Wills can also be changed when both partners are still alive. The Wills are not legally linked so if one person changes their Will, the other person does not legally need to be notified. Although a couple’s wishes may be the same, their respective Wills are theirs alone to alter as they choose.
Complications can also arise if children remarry, get a divorce, or encounter financial difficulties, as sometimes this can mean assets pass sideways outside of the family.
People often fail to realise what happens to their Estate if their surviving partner ends up needing care later in life. Under the Community Care Act of 1993, the Local Authority has the power to use peoples’ finances and assets to pay for their care. This means that should one person die and then the other becomes ill and requires care, their children may not benefit from the estate at all.
Avoiding the complications caused by Mirror Wills
If a couple’s assets include property, then one of the easiest ways to avoid complications caused by Mirror Wills, is to make sure that they are ‘tenants in common’ rather than ‘joint tenants’.
As ‘joint tenants’, when one person dies, the surviving joint owner becomes automatically entitled to 100% of the property immediately without the need for the property to pass through the deceased’s estate. That might sound great, but in passing assets this way leaves them unprotected.
By becoming ‘tenants in common’, each person owns a 50% share of the property that they can leave it to whoever they like, typically we would recommend a Trust. The Trust can be for the benefit of the surviving spouse, your children and grandchildren, this means the survivor can remain living at the property after their partner’s death, but should they need care later in life, the Local Authority can usually only take fees from their 50% share of the property. Making sure the other 50% value of the property remains protected.
Creating a Trust within a Will and appointing a trustee(s) to look after assets can help ensure that your estate gets passed on to the right beneficiaries at the right time and it stays there.
Although creating Trusts in a Will may be a little more complex, it is worth it in the long run, as it makes passing on your estate much more protective process.
There are alternatives to Mirror Wills such as Mutual Wills, which are similar to Mirror Wills, with the added caveat that they cannot be changed without mutual agreement of both parties and after first death become legally binding. Because no-one has a crystal ball, we never recommend taking out a Mutual Will, because it ties your hands and gives you no flexibility to change your wishes in the future.
Get expert advice on Will Writing
Mirror Wills most certainly have some advantages and it is always better to have a Will than no Will at all. However, there are several things to consider in ensuring that Mirror Wills suit you, so it is best to seek legal advice to find the best solution for you and your circumstances.
Why should I make a Mirror Will?
Mirror Wills are remarkably similar documents drafted for couples that mutually agree to leave their whole Estate to the last surviving partner if one of them passes away. By agreeing to a Mirror Will, you are protecting your partner’s financial future (as if you are unmarried, they would not necessarily be legally entitled to inherit your Estate).
A Mirror Will can include instructions for both parties’ Estates to be left to any surviving children should the couple die at the same time. If you have any children under the age of 18, you can appoint a Guardian for them should both parents pass away.
Usually, the partners are the sole beneficiary in each other’s Mirror Will and are also each other’s Executor. In the case of Mirror Wills, we recommend additional Executors are named so that both partners’ wishes can be carried out if they die at the same time. You can also appoint trustees that will protect your estate until your children are old enough to inherit it.
Advantages of Mirror Wills
Here are the key pros and cons for a Mirror Will:
- Your Estate goes to someone you want it to go to, without it you risk it going outside the family or worst still, to The Crown!
- You can provide for your partner, so they have financial security in the event of your death
- You can provide for your children and appoint guardians for any that are under 18yrs should this be needed
- Mirror Wills can be more cost effective than creating totally separate Wills for each partner
Disadvantages of Mirror Wills
- Either partner can change their Will at any time and not tell the other partner
- Your wishes may not be respected if your partner changes their Will after your death, e.g. they re-marry and cut your children from a previous relationship out of the entitlement you wanted them to have
- Simply leaving everything to the other partner could give them or any children an Inheritance Tax problem in later years
- Passing your assets to your partner leaves them open to losing those assets to care fees, divorce, or bankruptcy, meaning less of a legacy to your children and grandchildren.
Do you have a Free Mirror Will Template?
We do not offer a free Will template as we believe that you should always seek professional advice prior to embarking on any Estate Planning. We are pleased to offer a Complimentary Will Review Service, to review any existing planning documents you have in place and advise you on what type of Will you have and if it meets your needs.
We also deliver FREE 45 Minute Estate Planning Webinars where you can learn much more about true Estate Planning including Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney.
Can Mirror Wills be changed?
Yes! Either party can amend their Mirror Will at any time, and this can be both a blessing and a curse!
While it is often helpful to have the flexibility to be able to change your Will, with or without your partners knowledge or consent, it can also lead to the unintended consequences of your wishes not be followed if you should die first.
For example, you and your partner may have children from previous relationships who you want to receive a share of your Estate. However, the surviving partner is perfectly entitled to change their Will and cut your beneficiaries out of their share after you have died.
This is why we recommend Client consider the use of a Protective Will, which involves the use of Trusts to make sure your planning is flexible enough to change with your changing wishes, but robust enough to ensure your wishes are followed after you have died.
Do Mirror Wills have to go to probate?
Regardless of the type or validity of your Will that exists, all Estates valued above the Probate threshold will need to go to Probate. Mirror Wills are treated in the same way as any other Will. Depending on your estate value and how the assets are owned you might not legally need probate, but we always recommend you do, as this gives you a legal audit trail relating to the first death, which is very important in claiming valuable Inheritance Tax Allowances on second death.
What is the difference between a Single Will and a Mirror Will?
A single Will is designed for the use of an individual person only and are not designed with couples in mind who may want to have similar clauses drafted into their Wills.
A Mirror Will is specifically crafted with married couples, civil partners, and unmarried couples in mind. Each Will can have slightly differing clauses and wishes but will predominantly ‘mirror’ the other partners Will.
What is the average cost of a Mirror Will?
Our Mirror Wills start from just £79 inc. VAT for a couple using our Online Will Writing Service.
Many Clients prefer to meet with us to have their Estate Planning professionally crafted, which can include the creation of professionally drafted Mirror Wills. The costs will depend on the complexity of the Estate Planning required.
How can Redwood Financial help with writing your Mirror Will
We have a comprehensive range of Will Writing Services available, from our basic Online Will Writing Service for single or mirror Wills to a fully bespoke individual Estate Planning Service that can include Protective Wills, Trusts, Guardianship, Lasting Power of Attorney (LPAs), Inheritance Tax Planning and Long Term Care Fee Planning, designed to give you the peace of mind that your family members and loved ones are protected when you die.
We always encourage our Clients to start their Estate Planning journey by joining one of our Free Public Information Webinars or Seminars on the topic of Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning. This provides a great level of knowledge for Clients to then make an informed decision about what they want to achieve from their Estate Planning.
Mirror Wills are a useful and cost-effective way to provide for you, your partner and your beneficiaries in the event of the death of one or both of you. However, they come with some risks that should be fully understood before committing to put a Mirror Will in place.
The best way to find out what Estate Planning solution might be best for you is to join our FREE 45 Minute Estate Planning Webinars or request a meeting through our Complimentary Will Review Service.