Creating a will is an essential step in ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes after your passing. For couples, married or otherwise, mirror wills are an intriguing option to consider. This article will delve into the concept of mirror wills, explaining what they are, why they are used, and the potential advantages and drawbacks associated with them.
What Is a Mirror Will?
Mirror wills, also known as “mutual wills,” are a special type of will executed by two individuals, most commonly married couples. The term “mirror” reflects the idea that each spouse’s will mirrors the contents of the other’s will. Essentially, both wills contain nearly identical provisions, primarily pertaining to the distribution of their estates.
The Structure of Mirror Wills
The basic structure of a mirror will is similar to that of an individual last will. It starts by bequeathing personal property to specific individuals. However, the distinctive feature of mirror wills lies in what follows: the remainder of the estate is left to the spouse or partner. This structure ensures that, in the event of one spouse’s passing, the surviving spouse inherits the assets without any complications.
Who Uses Mirror Wills?
Mirror wills are most commonly used by married couples or long-term partners who share similar wishes for the distribution of their assets after their passing. These couples often execute mirror wills with the intention of safeguarding the surviving spouse’s interests. This means that, regardless of which partner passes away first, the surviving spouse will be protected.
Furthermore, mirror wills can also be a practical option for couples in second marriages who have children from previous relationships. In such cases, both partners may leave everything to one another and then to their respective children. This approach ensures that children from both sides receive an equal share of the assets when both partners have passed away.
Why Creating a Mirror Will is a Wise Choice
A mirror will offer couples a smart way to safeguard each other and their children in case one of them passes away. Let’s explore the advantages of having mirror wills:
- Ensuring Financial Security for Your Partner: With a mirror will, your partner will inherit everything if you pass away first. This is especially important for unmarried couples.
- Providing for Your Children: Mirror wills can include provisions to leave both partners’ estates to any surviving children if the couple were to pass away simultaneously. This ensures your children’s financial stability in the future.
- Cost-Effective and Simplified: Creating mirror wills is a more straightforward and cost-effective option compared to drafting individual wills.
- Avoiding Intestacy: A mirror will guarantee that you and your partner won’t be left without a home or financial security in the event of an intestate death (passing away without a will).
- Fair Distribution of Assets: For couples in second marriages with children from previous relationships, the mirror will enable them to leave everything to each other and subsequently to their respective children. This ensures an equal share of assets for all the children involved.
It’s worth noting that a potential issue with mirror wills is that a spouse or partner could change their will without your agreement. To address this concern, you might consider a mutual will. A mutual will is a type of will where both parties agree to make the same provisions and commit not to revise or revoke the will without the other’s consent.
Flexibility and Control in Mirror Wills
One significant aspect of mirror wills is that they are not necessarily mutually binding. Each spouse retains independent control over their will, allowing them to make changes or amendments without the need to consult their partner. While this flexibility can be advantageous, it also comes with potential pitfalls, as the surviving spouse or partner could later change their will without agreement or consent.
Addressing Changes: The Mutual Will Option
To address concerns related to one spouse or partner unilaterally changing their will, there is an alternative called a “mutual will.” A mutual will is a specific type of will in which both parties agree to make the same provisions in their wills. Additionally, they commit not to revoke or modify the will without the other’s consent. This ensures that the wishes outlined in the will remain intact and cannot be changed independently by either party.
Can I Have A Mirror Will If I Am Not Married?
Yes, mirror wills are not exclusive to married couples. Unmarried couples or partners who share similar preferences for how their assets should be handled after their passing can also create mirror wills. This legal document is not limited to those in marital relationships and can be established by any pair of individuals, such as siblings, unmarried partners, or even business associates.
If you and your partner have comparable wishes regarding your assets, opting for mirror wills can be a practical choice. It simplifies matters by mirroring one another’s wills, potentially saving time and ensuring that your shared assets are distributed in accordance with your mutual preferences.
The structure of a mirror will closely resemble that of an individual last will. It designates specific beneficiaries for personal property and allocates the rest of the estate to a partner, adhering to the collective wishes of the two individuals involved.
In conclusion, mirror wills are a valuable tool for couples with similar estate distribution preferences, offering a straightforward way to ensure the protection of the surviving spouse and the inheritance of their children. However, the potential for one party to unilaterally change their will can lead to complications. Therefore, it’s essential to carefully consider the implications and, if necessary, explore the alternative option of mutual wills. Ultimately, the choice between mirror wills and mutual wills depends on the specific circumstances and the level of trust and cooperation between the involved parties.
Mirror wills are a powerful tool for couples to ensure their assets are distributed as they wish, but they are not without their complexities. Understanding the nuances of mirror wills and the potential for changes down the road is crucial to making an informed decision. When considering mirror wills, couples should consult with legal professionals to help them navigate this important aspect of estate planning, ensuring their desires are protected and their legacy is secured. By doing so, they can rest assured that their loved ones will be taken care of according to their carefully thought-out wishes.
Meet Doug, a seasoned financial planner with over 35 years of experience in providing trusted advice and planning for retirement, estates, income tax, and investments. As a Chartered Accountant (CPA CA), Certified Estate Advisor (CEA), Certified Financial Planner (CFP®), and Elder Planning Counsellor (EPC), Doug has the expertise and knowledge to guide and support executors through the estate processing journey.