More than half of the adult population in the UK do not have a Will.
This means that there are millions of people who have not yet made any provisions for their families, friends, charities and ultimately their final wishes after they’ve gone.
If you die in England or Wales without a valid Will, the law will decide who gets what. If you have no living family members, all your property and possessions will go to the Crown.
Solicitors are always telling their clients that making a Will is important no matter how inconsequential they may think it is. You never know what’s around the next corner and dying ‘intestate’ (without a Will) can cause your family months - if not years - of heartache, stress and ongoing Solicitors fees as they charge by the hour to sort your Estate out.
If the Solicitors sorting out your Estate charge your family fees from £250 - £300 per hour, plus VAT, and you could have made Mirror Wills from as little as £234 - it's obvious which option costs less in the long run.
So making a Will should be at the top of everyone’s ‘to do’ list. If you and your partner have almost identical plans for what happens after each of you has passed away, Mirror Wills can be a very cost effective solution.
What is a Mirror Will?
If a couple, married or otherwise, want to make almost identical Wills, perhaps leaving everything to each other on the first death and, if they have any, to their children when the surviving partner dies, then they may wish to draw up what are known as Mirror Wills. These are practically identical in almost every way, except for the name of the testator and maybe their individual funeral wishes.
However, it’s important to note that they must be separate legal documents, so effectively they are two separate wills but with similar contents. The respective partners are usually named as sole beneficiary on the first death and the same beneficiaries are included on the second death and will be apportioned the same benefit in each Will. That way, for the purpose of succession, it is not impacted by the order in which the couple dies.
Things to Know about Making Mirror Wills
You will need to ensure that both Mirror Wills are kept fully updated. So if a change is made to one Will then the same change will need to be made to the partner’s Will to make sure that both Mirror Wills continue to reflect one another. If you create new Wills then make sure that the old Wills are properly destroyed so that there can be no confusion at a later date if an out-of-date Will is found.
It is also important to add at least one substitute executor and beneficiary to each Will. This means that the will is still effective if both partners should die at the same time. The second Executor can be the same person in both wills, and this is advisable as having different Executors can lead to complications and confusion.
Any Potential Problems with Mirror Wills?
Yes. Either party is free to change their Will at any time. It is important to know that although a couple’s wishes may be identical, their respective Wills are theirs alone. Therefore trusting your partner is vital because if you decide to change your Will, you do not have to tell your partner.
However, just remember, they are not obliged to tell you either! This could be significant particularly if, after your death, the surviving partner re-marries or has further children with someone else. If you die first, you may have left your Estate to your partner so, if they subsequently decide to change their Will, they could pass on your assets to people you do not want.
How Can I Protect My Estate?
Rather than leaving your Estate outright to your partner, you may want to consider using a Trust in your Will. You can then decide to pass all or some (maybe just your share of a property) to the Trust.
The terms of the Trust may allow your partner to benefit from the Trust assets during their lifetime but, after your partner’s death or perhaps re-marriage, the assets in the Trust pass to beneficiaries you specify. The benefit of this arrangement is that your partner never owns the assets from your Estate outright so is unable to re-direct the assets if they go on to change their Will after your death. This type of arrangement is commonly seen where couples come together but have children from previous relationships.
It is possible for both parties to make Mirror Wills incorporating these Trust provisions. However, please note, there are different types of Trusts that can be written into your Will and it is a complex area of law so it’s important to get professional advice.
For initial advice and guidance call our Will Writing team on 03306069591 or contact us online and we will call you.