The term ‘mirror will' is used to describe two wills that reflect the terms of the other. They are almost identical, with the only difference being the parties' names. In theory, any two people can draft mirror wills, but they are mostly used by married couples or civil partners. While they are two different documents, they contain the same wishes. One spouse signs one will and the other is signed by the other spouse. There are no set rules about what instructions a mirror will should contain, but it is common for it to state that the surviving spouse should inherit everything.
Having an up-to-date will is hugely important. Doing so means that you can be confident that the people and causes that you care about will inherit your property, money and possessions in the way you want after you die. Making a will can also reduce your liability for inheritance tax. For the sake of ease, and to ensure the surviving spouse inherits their estate, many couples opt to draft mirror wills.
What is a mirror will?
The benefits of making a mirror will
A mirror will offers certainty and security for your family. By giving explicit instructions that your partner should inherit all of your estate, you can be sure that they will be provided for financially after you are gone.
If you die without making a will, this is called dying ‘intestate'. In this situation, the rules of intestacy apply in deciding how your estate will be distributed. These are default legal rules that set out who should inherit what. While the rules of intestacy do make provisions for spouses and children, this may not reflect your wishes.
Making a mirror will also allows you to make sure that your children are well cared for and supported after you die. You can leave clear instructions about who you would like to appoint as a guardian and arrange for trusts to be set up to take care of financial provisions. This can be particularly important if both parents die at the same time, for example in an accident.
Do my partner and I need to be married to make mirror wills?
No, while mirror wills are commonly used by married couples or civil partners, they can be used by unmarried couples as well. In fact, making mirror wills can offer additional security for unmarried partners as they can lose out if an estate is distributed in line with the intestacy rules.
Some important considerations when making a mirror will
There are some important points to consider if you are thinking of making a mirror will as these can lead to problems in some circumstances. While mirror wills mostly contain the same instructions, they are considered to be two separate documents. This means that one person can change their will, either when they are alive without telling their spouse, or after their spouse has died. This could mean that money or property that you have left to your partner is not be distributed in the way you would have wished after they die.