12 April 2023

Are mirror wills right for us?

By Victoria Wells, Solicitor, Hayes + Storr.

If you are married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting with a long term partner, and thinking of making or updating your will, you may have heard the expression ‘mirror wills’ and wonder if this would be suitable for you.

Mirror wills are wills made by two or more people in identical or very similar terms – effectively mirroring each other’s arrangements.

For many couples, mirror wills may be the most appropriate option, but you should always check with a legal professional as some circumstances might mean that mirror wills are not the best approach for you.

What are mirror wills?

Mirror wills are used to ensure that everything you own passes according to the shared wishes of both parties. A typical set up for mirror wills is for everything to pass to the surviving partner, and then after they die everything will pass to those people or charities that you both chose together.

How are mirror wills used?

Mirror wills are particularly useful for those in second marriages or with children from previous relationships, as they help to ensure that both sides of the family are treated fairly and equally.

If you decide to make separate wills and you do not mirror your wishes, any money or property passing to the survivor after the first death, will then ultimately pass according only to their wishes.

Advantages of mirror wills

Mirror wills are useful to protect the interests of the survivor as well as the remaining family of the first person to die.

For married couples and those in a civil partnership, mirror wills are also likely to be beneficial for the purpose of inheritance tax, as including each other as beneficiaries initially allows you to take advantage of the tax free allowances available.

Disadvantages of mirror wills

Mirror wills do not come with any assurance that the survivor will not change their will, make a new will, or remarry following the first death.

Before making your mirror wills, it is imperative that you completely trust one another to stick by any joint decisions you make once one of you is no longer alive. As there is no legal obligation on the survivor to retain the terms of the mirror wills, they could simply make a new will leaving everything to beneficiaries of their own choosing, such as their own biological children. As such, mirror wills might not be suitable if there is any element of distrust or if your families do not get along.

It is also important to note that any later marriage or civil partnership would automatically revoke the survivor’s will. As such, your jointly chosen beneficiaries could miss out even if this is not the survivor’s intention. If the survivor does remarry, they should seek legal advice to ensure that their will continues to accurately reflect your joint wishes.

How can we help?

Mirror wills are often a good option, but this is dependent on your individual circumstances, and you should seek legal advice before making any new will.

For further information, please contact Victoria Wells on 01328 863231 or email victoria.wells@hayes-storr.com.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.