17 April 2023

A mirror or mutual Will: What is the difference?

Hands of three people gathered around the signing of a Will

It’s common for couples to want the same things in life, and to express the same wishes in death.

Spouses and partners often want to leave their estate to their children but, with a growing number of blended families across the UK, creating a Will is becoming increasingly complex – and step-children are often left out.

Wills and family dynamics

A common scenario that we encounter in deaths involving a second spouse is where the surviving spouse had a Will in similar terms with their partner.

Typically, the Will leaves the estate to the surviving spouse and, upon the death of the second spouse or partner, it is agreed that the estate is to be shared equally between children and step-children.

However, we frequently see cases where, upon the death of the first spouse or partner, the survivor changes their own Will to solely benefit their children, in effect disinheriting their step-children. The question we get asked is, is this allowed?

The answer rests in whether the Will is a mirror Will or a mutual Will.

What is a mirror Will?

A mirror Will is one which is effectively the same as a Will prepared by a spouse or partner i.e. it is a “mirror” of their Will. It is important to note that it is permissible for the surviving spouse to change the terms of their Will after the death of the first.

This means that if the surviving spouse or partner re-marries, the existing Will shall be invalid (marriage invalidates a Will, unless it was made in contemplation of marriage), thereby disinheriting children from a first marriage.

What is a mutual Will?

Mutual Wills are less common. A mutual Will is one which is legally binding and the terms of which cannot be changed following the death of the first spouse or partner. As well as being a Will in of itself, a mutual Will is therefore also a contractual agreement.

Furthermore, a mutual Will is not revoked on marriage. In order to be a mutual Will, it must be clear on the face of the Will itself that it is intended to be a mutual Will.

Which Will should I choose?

The choice of which Will is better suited to you depends upon your personal circumstances. If a person has children from a previous marriage and wishes to protect assets for their own children, a mutual Will may be more appropriate.

However, we strongly recommend that legal advice should be sought. If you are interested in creating a mutual or mirror Will, get in touch with our Wills, estates, tax, and trusts team for further information.

Need help?

Contact Katherine to discuss this further.

Related news

Back to top