Wills can be drafted in a few different ways. A single will is by far the most common – just a will, which is not dependent in any way on another will, and is sworn by one individual. Single wills are simple, and suitable for almost everyone. However there are occasions, when couples have different wishes. And that’s where Joint, Mirror and Mutual Wills come in.
What are Joint Wills?
Joint wills are single documents which are executed by more than one person. In contrast with straightforward single Wills, joint Wills are very rare, and involve having two people’s wishes in one Will. They are usually made by a married couple or those in a commited long term relationship.
Under a joint will, the survivor inherits the whole estate when the other person making the will dies. However these are single documents – but do provide for separate distribution of property on the death of either party.
These kind of wills tend to be rather long and complex, and we do not normally recommend them – not least because spouses or partners do not usually die at the same time.
However, for some people, a joint will can be worth considering. But that’s only where your financial matters are relatively simple, you don’t have many beneficiaries and you are in complete and utter agreement about how you would like your estate distributed.
It’s also worth noting that you don’t need to be married, in a civil partnership, or even living together to create a joint will. Any two (or more) people can make a joint will with a family member, friend, business partner – or anyone you want to.
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What are Mirror Wills?
Mirror Wills are also fairly unusual. Their purpose is to to represent the shared wishes of a couple . They can be used when two Wills have exactly the same terms. One of the owners can revoke their Will if they gain consent from the other person involved.
But mirror wills do have one important problem built-in – which you need to consider very carefully before opting for this kind of will.
In short, when one person dies, the survivor’s mirror will becomes irrevocable i.e you can’t, in effect, change it.
(NB technically if the surviving partner does change their mirror will, those amendments will have legal effect. However what is known as “a constructive trust” arises over the survivor’s property).
But remember – if there are any changes in your life (things like getting married, divorced, or having children or grandchildren – or you’ve just changed your mind) both of you are going to need to update your wills. That’s to make sure that both of your wills keep in sync.
If this scenario is a problem for you, then there is an alternative to the mirror will – the mutual will.
What are Mutual Wills?
Mutual Wills are very similar to Mirror Wills. However, a small difference is that both parties agree that the Wills cannot be cancelled, even if one of them dies. Documents should be present as evidence that the Wills are mutual.
There is a trust involved in setting up mutual Wills which stops them from being revoked. If one of the people with a Mutual Will marries after the other person involved has died, the existing Mutual Will is revoked. The trust is still effective if the living partner received property when the other partner passed away.
Mutual wills aren’t always the best choice. You can often better achieve a similar outcome through creating a trust or other family arrangement.
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