What exactly is a mirror will and how similar do they have to be?

A mirror will is when you and your partner make almost identical wills. These usually leave everything to each other respectively should one partner die before the other and if they die at the same time, everything is passed to children or the same named beneficiaries. You do not have to be married or in a civil partnership to make a mirror will.

It is not possible to have a joint will, where two people's wills are covered in the same document. Each person must have their own individual will.

So, in effect, mirror wills are separate legal documents, which have almost the same contents.

How similar do they have to be?

As mirror wills are designed for couples with similar wishes to make almost identical wills, the types of things which are usually consistent with the corresponding will are:

  • The respective partners become both sole beneficiary and sole executor to each other, if one dies before the other
  • They name those who will inherit and benefit from their estate after the death of their partner 
  • They appoint guardians to look after their children, should they both die before their children reach the age of 18.

In what ways can each will be different from each other?

There is no obligation to have the same executors for both of the wills. The executor is the person which you appoint to ensure that the terms of your will are carried out.

Wills & Tax Solicitor, Alia Allen, explains “With mirror wills, it is essential to add at least one extra executor and beneficiary to each will. This safeguards the estate in the event that you were to die together. The second executor and beneficiary can be the same person in both wills, or you may choose to have different executors. So, for example, each person within the couple may like to have one of their own siblings as an executor or they might choose a mutual friend to be executor for both of them.”

You may also want to refer to particular possessions in one of the wills, for example stating who should inherit your sports car, and bequeaths such as this would not need to appear in both wills.

Mutual Wills – what are they?

It is possible for a couple to draw up ‘mutual wills’. These wills are identical.

With a mutual will, when the first of you dies, the will of the other person cannot be revoked. As such, we do not recommend mutual wills.

Another pitfall is that either person can revoke the will whilst both of you are still alive without informing the other person. This removes the mutuality of the wills. There is no such agreement with mirror wills, so they are generally viewed as the better option.

Our Wills & Tax Team are happy to discuss any issues that this raises for you. If you have any questions, you only have to ask us at Frettens. Please call 01202 499255 and Alia or a member of the team, will be happy to chat about your situation and your particular requirements.