When dealing with wills for couples, you will often find wills referred to as ‘mirror wills’, ‘mutual wills, and ‘joint wills’. Whilst these terms seem similar, each have separate meanings and should not be used interchangeably. This week’s article will examine the differences between these three terms.
‘Mirror wills’ unlike the other two terms is a not a term with a fixed legal definition. It is a term used by will drafters for wills for two people where the terms of the two wills mirror each other in full or in part. The most common types of mirror wills would be two wills for spouses or partners, leaving their estates to each other and after both have died to their children or other relatives.
As it has no fixed legal definition, the exact definition may vary from professional to professional. For example, some professionals may use the term ‘mirror will’ only when referring to simple wills without trusts, may only use it if the wills are exact mirrors of each other and without variations or may only use the term in relation to wills for spouses or partners.
Clients creating mirror wills are free to amend these at any time and there is no agreement for the survivor of them to not be able to revoke their will.
Mutual wills are wills made between two or more people in which they are making some mutual benefit to the other people and the people involved agree that the wills cannot be revoked without the consent of the others. On the death of any of the parties the survivors will be bound by the terms of the mutual wills.
Whilst all parties are alive, they can change their minds at any time and revoke the mutual wills. Once one party to this agreement dies and the others accept their benefit from the deceased’s Will, the agreement not to revoke becomes binding on the other parties.
Whilst this seems beneficial, mutual wills have numerous issues, and it is not WillPack’s policy to draft mutual wills. We’ve covered mutual wills in detail in a previous article.
A joint will is a more unusual and rare type of will. This is a will made for two people executed in the same document. These are usually mirroring for both people and may also be mutual wills. Although created on the same document, a joint will is a separate will for each individual and they are free to revoke the part of the joint will that relates to them provided it is not a mutual will. On the death of each individual, the joint will would be admitted to probate as their will.
Joint wills are not something that WillPack would offer and would always provide two separate wills for two individuals.