Are you and your partner are on the same page about how you will provide for your children should one of you die? If yes, can you just make one Will together? The short answer is no. There is no such thing as a joint Will because two people can’t make their Wills on one document. However, you can agree with your partner to dispose of your estate in exactly the same way. These are called Mirror Wills. They are two separate legal documents that contain almost identical clauses. They are the most popular and cost-effective option for couples because they generally leave everything to one partner on the first’s death and then to their children in equal shares. You don’t have to be married to make Mirror Wills; you could be in a civil partnership or a long-term relationship.
What is a Mirror Will?
A Mirror Will is a legally binding Will that is almost identical to the contents of your partner’s Will.
What are the advantages of a Mirror Will?
A couple may wish to get a Mirror Will if they want one of the following things to happen:
- if one partner dies, the other will be entitled to the deceased’s partner’s entire estate; and
- when the remaining partner dies, the estate will then be passed to any children.
Mirror Wills can be used for blended families and second marriages where the couple wants to leave everything to the other on the first’s death and then to their respective children when both members of the couple have passed away.
Mirror Wills are relatively easy, quick and cost-effective to set up, as both spouses or partners make similar wishes. The Lawpack Mirror Wills Kit is drafted to provide for legacies and gifts that can apply whoever dies first, and for legacies and gifts that will apply only on the death of the second. For example, you may want to give sentimental items such as jewellery to children, whoever dies first, but only want a gift of the house to take effect when both partners have died.
Mirror Wills also provide flexibility should family situations change.
What are the disadvantages of a Mirror Will?
As each Mirror Will is a separate legal document, partners are free to change their Wills whenever they want, without the agreement or consent of the other partner. Partners can change their Will while both are still alive or after the first has died. There is no obligation for either to stick to the terms of the Mirror Wills. So you need to be sure that you can trust your partner or spouse to carry out your wishes after your death and not change their mind and change their Will. There could be a situation where the surviving partner does not stick to the agreed terms, and children or stepchildren could be left out and not receive a share of their parent’s assets.
However, if a spouse remarries after your death, then their existing Will will be void and they must make a new Will. Again, you must be able to trust your spouse to carry out your jointly agreed wishes after your death and in the event of their remarriage.
Protecting your Mirror Will
You must remember that if you change one party’s Mirror Will, you must also change the other. It is probably sensible that if you create a new Will, you destroy the old one to avoid any confusion in the future.
Make sure you include at least one substitute executor to ensure that the Will is still valid if both partners die at the same time.
If you don’t want to have the uncertainty that may arise with a Mirror Will, it is possible to create a so-called ‘Mutual Will’ agreement where you and your spouse or partner agree that during your lifetime you will not change your Wills without each other’s consent. Then, on the death of the first person, the assets of the estate are put into a trust. This means that the trust will hold all or some of your estate in the trust and appoint a trustee to be in charge of the trust in the event of your death. A trust includes a beneficiary who is legally entitled to the contents of the trust. It is the trustee’s duty to make sure the beneficiaries receive what’s in the trust.
Of course, making Mutual Wills is more complex and costly than making Mirror Wills. Mutual Wills are not common and can cause significant problems. If you do think you want to enter into a Mutual Will agreement then you should consult a solicitor.
A cost-effective DIY solution: Lawpack’s Mirror Wills Kit
For nearly 30 years, Lawpack has provided the means for writing your own Will legally and at little expense. Lawpack Mirror Wills Kit for couples gives you the confidence and the tools to follow straightforward steps to make a valid will without the need for legal advice.
The lawyer-approved Lawpack Mirror Wills Kit for couples provides Mirror Will forms that have been drafted to make the creation of Mirror Wills a straightforward process. It is assumed that you wish to name your spouse or partner as your main beneficiary and name an alternative beneficiary if he or she predeceases you, but it is possible to alter the Will Form to make a different provision.
Lawpack Mirror Wills Kit for couples has been approved by lawyers and will provide you with all the information you need. There is a step-by-step Guidance manual on writing a will for use in England & Wales or Scotland.
This DIY Kit is a good option for those who want to write their own will and need a bit of extra legal guidance, but can’t afford to use a lawyer to help them write their will.