People often confuse the terms “Mutual Will” and “Mirror Will”. However, in law they are two very different things and it is important to be precise.
So what is the difference between a mirror will and a mutual will?
A mirror will
This is a will that simply “mirrors” another will.
They are generally made by couples whose wills are very similar. A common scenario is a wife leaving everything to her husband and the husband leaving everything to his wife. On the death of the survivor the estate passes to their children.
In this way the two wills mirror each other.
However, both parties are completely free to revoke their will and make another.
A mutual will
A mutual also involves two people making a will. However the crucial difference is that it creates a binding legal agreement. Unlike a mirror will, the survivor agrees not to change their will.
Mutual wills involve complex legal principles and professional legal advice should always be taken where they are encountered.
For a mutual will to be created there must be clear and convincing evidence of a binding intention between the two parties that neither one should be entitled to revoke their will without the other’s consent.
There are also additional legal formalities where the estate includes land.
Mirror wills and mutual wills: which is most suitable?
Mutual wills are not very common and solicitors do not tend to recommend them to their clients on a routine basis.
In addition to the legal complexities, mutual wills are more likely to lead to legal disputes arising.
Their biggest drawback however is their inflexibility. Once a couple have made mutual wills there is no going back unless both parties are in agreement. This restricts what each party can do going forward and unforeseen consequences can arise when the first one passes away.
Mirror wills are much more straightforward. However, because the survivor is free to revoke their will and make a new one family disputes can arise. For instance if a couple make mirror wills in the terms described above there is likely to be an expectation that the survivor will honour the intention of leaving the combined estate to the couple’s children. But what if the survivor remarries? Will they make provision for their new partner in a new will? And what about the new partner’s children? If the new couple themselves enter into mirror wills, will provision be made for the children of the first relationship to receive what was originally intended if the new partner survives?
With family structures becoming increasingly complex and fragmented these are important questions to consider when making a will.
How we can help
If you would like advice on the difference between a mirror will and a mutual will then we are able to help.
We specialise in preparing complex wills and are experienced in advising on the best options in complicated family circumstances.
It is so important to ensure that your will is prepared with all possible scenarios and outcomes in mind in order to minimise the possibility of a legal dispute arising after to pass.
For details of the services we can offer in Devon and Somerset and an estimate of the likely fee then give us a call on 0808 139 1606 or email us at [email protected]