A guide to mirror wills – What are they and why are they important?

More than half of the UK adult population either choose to not have a will or simply don’t recognise the importance of one – but few realise the negative consequences that loved ones face as a result. Not only do families have to go through a tedious process of estate division, but they may also become responsible for footing all the high legal costs. There is now a rising number of couples that have decided to make mirror wills. But what is a mirror will and should you make one?

What is a mirror will?

A mirror will typically leaves the estate of the deceased to the surviving partner. It’s usually married couples, those in civil partnerships or those in long-term relationships that opt for a mirror will as it allows for individuals to state what they wish to happen should the surviving partner pass away. These wills are largely reflective of the other parties will and are therefore seen as the most beneficial option for the vast majority of couples and families.

Making a will is the first step, however it is equally important to keep your will up-to-date. Regarding mirror wills, if a change is made to one individual testament, the same must also be ‘mirrored’ in the will of the second party. Just as you would for any simple will, you must also ensure that old mirror wills are destroyed properly and effectively to avoid any misunderstandings or confusion in the future.

Advantages of mirror wills

There are many different benefits to having a mirror will, the major advantages being cost-effectiveness, timeliness and the ability to avoid inheritance tax.

On average, a solicitor can charge from £250 up to £300 per hour when settling matters regarding the deceased’s estate – compare this to the £200 it costs for a solicitor to make a mirror will or for free on Rocket Lawyer; you can evidently see which is the cheaper option.

Furthermore, mirror wills allow you to protect your loved ones should something unfortunate happen. Mirror wills leave the deceased’s estate and possessions to the surviving party; this ensures that this individual will be financially protected and stable in the future. Mirror wills also protect the child or children should something happen to both parties. While children under the age of 18 cannot solely control the estate of the deceased, a mirror will gives the child complete control after they turn 18, guaranteeing that any surviving heirs will be financially protected in the following years.

UK law allows you to leave your estate to whomever you wish and with this freedom, it is important for both parties involved to review their testaments on a regular basis and make changes accordingly. When changing a mirrored will, it is important to adapt both wills in order for them to remain reflective of each other. It is however possible for an individual to change their own part of the will and provided this change is updated across both testaments; the wills continue to work in harmony. Changes to mirrored wills may occur due to marital breakdown, the death of an individual or simply just a change in heart.

Those who opt for a mirror will have the added benefit of being able to transfer inheritance tax to the surviving partner. There is no inheritance tax on any assets when passing them from the deceased partner to the living partner. The first of the pair to pass away will not have used up any of their inheritance tax and upon the death of the second party; the deceased is granted £650,000 before payable tax.

Something to remember…

It is important to have a will – whether that is a simple, mutual, living or mirror will. Mirror wills are great for those couples who have similar wishes and want to protect each other and any children in the event of a tragedy. However, mirror wills do not come without their problems – the main complication that comes with this particular type of will is the ability to change the testament with ease.

If an individual decides to change elements of the will, including the beneficiary, they are not required to inform the other party of such updates and as a result you could end up leaving your entire estate to someone who doesn’t plan to leave theirs to you. Trust is the most important factor within a mirror will and without it, there could be devastating consequences. Luckily, there are many different options for you to choose from when deciding which will is best for you.