What Is A Mirror Will?

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By Nicola Briggs - 19th October 2021

A mirror Will is when your Will mirrors that of your spouse or partner. The two Wills are all-but identical, and are ideal for people in a relationship who have the same wishes. It is cheaper to make two mirror Wills than two separate single Wills, as the unity of intention makes the drafting easier.

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Mirror Wills explained

When a Will is created, it is one document for one person. Two people cannot make one Will which they both sign. However, it is very common for a couple to have the same testamentary intentions. In other words, they want to name exactly the same beneficiaries. If so, their wishes can be replicated in two Wills that look pretty much identical – i.e. they mirror one another.

A typical mirror Will for Mr Jones would be: “I leave everything to Mrs Jones, but if she predeceases me, then to our three children”. A mirror Will for Mrs Jones would be: “I leave everything to Mr Jones, but if he predeceases me, then to our three children”.  These Wills set out the scenario should one die before the other, and also should they both die together (for example, in a car crash.)

Small differences are allowed. For instance, Mrs Jones might want to leave a legacy to Cancer Research UK.

In all other respects, a mirror Will is the same as a single Will. They do things such as:

  • Appoint Executors
  • Appoint guardians for children who are under the age of 18
  • Say who should receive what, and name substitute beneficiaries

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Can I change my mirror Will?

Yes, it is possible to change a mirror Will, even if one spouse or partner has died. There is no contract that says the surviving partner or spouse must never change their Will. There is freedom of testamentary disposition in England and Wales, unlike in some parts of Europe. This means that either person is free to make a new Will at any time, and they do not have to tell their partner or spouse.

Usually, the surviving spouse or partner maintains the wishes of the first partner or spouse who has died. This is particularly true where the only children are children of that union. But issues can sometimes arise in the context of second marriages or second relationships, where there are children from pre-existing relationships. In these situations, we do see people in later life change their Wills to cut out step-children, and even their own children. This might happen due to a change in the nature of the relationship, or because they have fallen under the influence of a third party, be it a new partner or a neighbour. The person who was originally named as a beneficiary is then left having to take legal action to contest the new Will.

The only way to guarantee that a child, step-child or charity receives the money you intend is to make sure that occurs in your own Will. However, you cannot leave a surviving spouse or partner without sufficient monies, as that will lead to a possible claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act 1975.

For this reason, and to try to prevent future disputes, we will ask our clients if they have previously made a mirror Will. That way, we can understand the expectation of the first person to die and check that it is still our client’s wish to diverge from those intentions, with all the consequences that may follow.

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