If you are looking to create a Will with your partner, you may have come across the concept of mirror Wills. However, it can be slightly confusing, and a mirror Will may not be the best option for you both – read on for our extensive guide to all things mirror Wills!
What Is a Mirror Will?
Mirror Wills are a common type of Will that many couples make. You do not have to be married to create one – anyone can do so. Mirror Wills do precisely what it says on the tin; they mirror each other almost exactly. They are created in a pair and typically allow people to leave their assets to each other and then to their children.
Mirror Wills are simple and effective and are ideal for people with straightforward wishes. They are often relatively cheap to make and ensure your partner is provided for when you pass away. They also allow you to name additional executors for your estate, which can smooth the probate process for your loved ones. However, they can have many drawbacks that may lead to future complications.
This type of Will can be changed at any time by either party without giving notice to the other party. Along with this, mirror Wills can also lead to what is known as sideways disinheritance, where children can be accidentally deprived of assets that should have gone to them. For example, if a couple has mirror Wills and the first partner dies, the remaining partner would inherit their entire estate. If the remaining partner then remarries, their original mirror Will becomes void, and unless they create a new Will, their estate may fall to their current partner rather than their children when they pass away.
Mirror Wills can also be very general and will not consider whether your partner is the best person for managing certain assets. For example, if you have business interests or stocks and shares, your partner may not know how to manage them appropriately. If mishandled, they could lose their value, and your heirs may lose some of their intended inheritance.
Mirror Wills vs Mutual Wills
Mirror Wills can often be mistaken for mutual Wills. Mutual Wills involve an agreement between both parties that they will not change their Wills without the other party’s consent. When both parties are alive, the Wills can be amended and even revoked if they want to change them entirely. They also remove the possibility of the Wills being changed after the first partner passes away, reducing the chances of sideways disinheritance. However, when one partner passes away, it becomes impossible for the remaining partner to alter their Will.
There are some limitations to mutual Wills as well. For example, if the remaining partner has new dependents, such as children, or wants to add a new grandchild to the Will, it can be challenging to find a way to include them, as their Will cannot be changed. Alongside this, you would not be able to update your Will if any changes to tax rules or laws would mean you could leave your beneficiaries more of your estate, so your loved ones could potentially receive less.
Having such a rigid Will could lead to inheritance disputes in the future from people who were not included, as you will not be able to make any amendments. Disputes can be avoided by using a more flexible way to provide for your children and grandchildren with no chance of sideways disinheritance.
Trusts and Wills
Mirror Wills and mutual Wills may be either too restrictive or too general for your needs, so there are several alternative approaches you can take, such as:
- Creating similar Wills – creating a similar Will to your partner can be an excellent middle road alternative to creating a mirror or mutual Will. You can leave a certain amount to your partner or leave them your share of your property and then designate other gifts as you see fit. Alternatively, you could leave everything to your partner and children but leave your Will open for amendments if something should happen – for example, if a new child or grandchild is born.
- Establishing a trust – creating a trust is an excellent way to protect your assets and ensure they go exactly where you want them to. They are legally binding, which makes sideways disinheritance much more unlikely, and even if your partner remarries after you pass away, your chosen beneficiaries will still inherit. There are many forms of trusts that you can create depending on your needs, including family protection trusts, protective property trusts, and life interest trusts.
Trusts put many people off as they think they are expensive and only for the rich. This is not the case – anyone can use trusts to protect their assets and ensure that their loved ones are provided for in the future regardless of their level of wealth.
Mirror Wills may sound attractive on the surface but can cause more issues than you might think. Along with mutual Wills, they can be very restrictive and lead to inheritance disputes in the future.
If you want to create a Will or revise the one you currently have, the Planning Bee can help. Contact us today to find out more.