Mirrors Will for Couples: What Are They and Should You Have One?
If you are getting married, are already married or are in a long-term relationship, you will eventually arrive at a point where you want to make plans for the future together. Some couples opt to make Mirror Wills.
What are Mirror Wills? Read our short guide on what they are and if you and your spouse should have them.
1) Summary in 30 Seconds
- Mirror Wills, also called “Joint Wills”, are matching Wills for couples. They’re usually affordable and straightforward to make.
- Most Mirror Wills leave the entire estate to the surviving spouse, and then to their children on their death.
- Mirror Wills are not the right fit for everyone. There are lots of other options available, such as Mutual Wills.
2) What Are Mirror Wills?
Mirror Wills, also called “Joint Wills”, are matching Wills for a couple who want to synchronize their wishes and preferences for their estate :
- What happens to their money, property and other assets
- Who will be the guardian to their children
Many couples want to make Wills that are nearly identical. For most couples this means that they specify that all property, money and possessions will go to the other spouse, and then to their children when the surviving spouse dies. This means everything held or owned in joint names will now be owned solely by the surviving spouse on their death.
A large majority of couples hold their most significant assets jointly, and therefore it would appear to make sense that your Wills would reflect this.
What if both of you already have Wills, made before you were together? It is likely your old Wills no longer reflect your current situation, especially if you are now married, in a civil partnership or a long-term committed relationship. Not only will your priorities have likely changed but your legal status has changed too. Having separate Wills risks potential conflict that could cause issues in the future. If your Wills contain different instructions for the same joint assets or property, this could make it difficult to distribute your estate.
Having Mirror Wills does not mean one Will for a couple. Mirror Wills are still two separate Wills, and constitute two separate legal documents. They operate and can be controlled or changed independently of each other.
3) Should You Have Joint Wills?
There are some benefits to having Joint Wills:
- Identical wishes. If you are just engaged or recently married, your assets might be minimal and your plans fairly straightforward. Life can get more complicated as you get older, but for now simple Mirror Wills might suffice.
- Children. If you and your spouse have children together, it is really important that you nominate Guardians for them in your Will. Without naming a Guardian, in the event of your deaths the courts will decide who will parent and care for your children. It may not be the person you would have wanted. If there are any complications, your children risk having to spend time in temporary foster care.
- Assigning other Executors. It is likely that your surviving spouse will be the Executor for your estate when you die. But who will then be their Executor? You can make these kinds of plans in your Joint Wills so that it is prepared ahead of time who will take care of this.
- Cost-effective and time-efficient. Many couples opt for Mirror Wills because law firms offer affordable combined prices. Many Mirror Wills are essentially identical apart from the testator’s names – therefore making it a straightforward process for any solicitor or Will writer. If you are concerned about not having a Will, perhaps before embarking on a long trip or medical treatment, Joint Wills are a way to get it sorted ASAP.
4) Mirror Wills: Pros & Cons
Wills are not always “one size fits all”. You might have made Mirror Wills when it was affordable and easy only to find that your situation has changed and you want something more specific to your personal circumstances. Or, if you don’t have a Will yet, you may have lingering concerns that Mirror Wills are not enough. Make sure to weigh the “pros & cons” to ensure this is the best fit for you.
- Remarriage and Blended Families. Mirror Wills don’t tend to account for what could happen if the surviving spouse decides to get remarried. In most cases, Mirror Wills account for the fact that spouses will leave their entire estate to each other, and on the death of the surviving spouse the estate will then pass to the children. If your spouse remarries, the children you had together could potentially be disinherited by the new spouse, leaving the estate to the step-children or new children from this marriage.
- Wills can be changed independently. Even if you have Joint Will, your Will is yours alone — you can change it or amend it with no duty to inform your spouse. If there is at any time a breakdown of the relationship, such as a temporary separation, there is a risk that one party could make changes that go contrary to the other party’s wishes.
- Care home fees and other old-age expenses. As mentioned above, most Mirror Wills simply leave the entire estate to the surviving spouse. Due to exorbitant care home costs and other expenses incurred in old age, the entire estate could be drained away, leaving little or no inheritance for your children or grand-children.
- The Estate can leave the family through other ways. If your children get divorced or go into debt, an inheritance left solely to them could be parcelled out, leaving very little for grand-children or future generations.
If you have further questions or concerns about making Wills, you probably need to get legal advice. Speak to a solicitor who is fully informed of your situation and can give you detailed advice tailored to you.
5) Getting Legal Advice
It is very tempting to get drawn into a legal solution that seems to be very straightforward and cheap. But if any of the scenarios above give you pause, it is wise to get legal advice before proceeding with Joint Wills. They might not be the best option for you and your spouse. For example, there are many alternatives to a simple Mirror Will that recognise your shared wishes whilst also accounting for more variables that could arise in the future. This is especially true if you have a complicated estate or are a Blended family.
- Trusts. Instead of allowing all your estate to be distributed through your Wills, you can make more specific choices for your estate with more defined goals or parameters for your beneficiaries. Many people think Trusts are only for those with a lot of money – but you might be surprised how many more options Trusts afford you, even for a modest estate.
- Gifts. If you are concerned about where your estate might end up after you’re gone, it might be worth getting advice on how best to make Gifts during your life-time instead.
- Mutual Wills. This type of Will resembles Mirror Wills closely, with the difference that it includes an agreement that the Wills cannot be changed at a later date.
Do you need help writing a Will? Call us today on 0800 678 5079 or use the form on our Contact page to get in touch with a legal advisor who can assist you.
6) Next Steps for Preparing Your Wills
It can be a little overwhelming trying to anticipate what the future might hold, especially trying to envision what could happen after you’re gone. Before creating any Wills, there are a few things you can do to ensure you are properly prepared and informed for going forwards.
- Write out your own wishes, separately. There might be possessions or assets you have different plans or ideas for than your spouse. For example, one of you might run your own business, or your spouse might be about to receive an inheritance from their own family. In privacy, write out what you would want in as clear terms as possible. Don’t try to anticipate too much what your spouse might say yet.
- Talk to each other. Take time out to sit down and discuss at length your plans and wishes for your estate. Be clear and honest about potential areas for disagreement you foresee, or differences of opinion that need addressing. Write down or make a note of any questions or concerns that require legal advice.
- Get legal advice. It is always good practice to ask questions and explore your options. Find a legal advisor or solicitor who specialises in this area who can provide detailed advice.
- Talk to your family about your Wills. It can be helpful to be open with your family, especially your children, letting them know what is entailed in your Will and what it means for them. However, the choices you make should be yours alone and you should not be pressured or induced into making decisions for your Will that you don’t feel comfortable with or are not happy with. Talking with your family in a relaxed and informal setting and explaining matters in an honest way can help to avoid future conflicts or disputes.