What should I include in a Mirror Will?
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Mirror wills are made by couples, the terms of which will be the same (‘reflective’).
What is a Mirror Will?
Mirror wills are made by couples, and the terms of each will is the same (albeit reflective of each other).
What is in a Mirror Will?
You need to include everything in a mirror will that you would be included in any other will. That might include:-
Things such as funeral wishes, guidance for guardians, and any other none binding wishes are best dealt with in a Letter of Wishes rather than your will. Your letter of wishes follows no legal format and can be easily be updated by you whenever you please – without having to go the trouble of updating of the will itself (which only needs to deal with the legally binding stuff).
These people will deal with the administration of your estate (executor), and then hold any money after that for example for your children (trustees) until they reach the specified age of entitlement.
It is fine for beneficiaries to be executor. Like any executor, they should be over 18, have the skills to do it, the time to do, and have agreed to do it!
> Read more about who to appoint
These are the people who ‘parent’ your children. This only kicks in if both legal/natural parents pass. It is generally good practice to appoint different people to be guardians v executor. The reason relates to the money being held for your children. Ahead of your children reaching 18 (or whatever age you have specified), the executors/trustees can/must make money available to the guardians for the cost of educating and maintaining the children. BUT, the trustees also have an obligation to try to preserve that pot of money to gift to the children when they reach the age of entitlement.
Appointing the same people in your mirror will to be both guardian and trustee creates a significant conflict of interest for them – or at the very least a moral dilemma!
> Who should I choose as a Guardian?
Chattels is the old fashioned legal phrase for personal items – household contents, personal effects, sports equipment, jewellery, and even cars!
The value of chattels for most of us on death is more sentimental than financial. That being so, unless you have items of particular value, it is often deemed best to deal with this in your Letter of Wishes. The mirror will can then simply make reference to that asking that the executors abide by any wishes you have set out. If you haven’t (set out any wishes) the reference in your will is simply benign.
This makes changes in your wishes over the distribution of your personal items easy as you simply update your Letter of Wishes and you don’t have to go to the trouble or expense of changing your mirror will.
> What is a Letter of Wishes?
Cash legacies are fixed cash sums to nominated beneficiaries (as opposed to residuary estate). You do not have to include fixed cash legacies in your mirror will(s). Legacies are typically used as token gestures, and not to deal with any significant proportion of your estate.
> What is a Cash Legacy?
Your residuary estate is ‘everything else’ that hasn’t already been dealt with. So, if you haven’t included any specific cash legacies or gifts of chattels it is absolutely everything. It is a ‘catch all’ clause and you do not need to specify the assets that will comprise your estate (in your will).
Typically, the residuary estate clause for a couple with children will gift:-
- Everything to surviving spouse; failing which
- Everything to the children equally; failing which
- Backstop/disaster scenario
> What is Residuary Estate?
What are backstop provisions/disaster scenario?
This is when the primary gifts in your mirror wills have failed (typically that both spouses and all children have passed). Obviously this rarely happens, but it can follow some ‘disaster’ – hence the phrase ‘disaster scenario’
Whether through disaster or a more natural course of events, it nevertheless is prudent to include a backstop provision beyond just children.
One particular feature of mirror wills is that these backstop provisions will be the same. This is to ensure that wherever the estate ends up, the same outcome happens. So for example, say legal spouses are making mirror wills, and they each want to include their own siblings in substitute. They might naturally think to simply include their own siblings in the backstop provisions (with the other spouse including their siblings in their own backstop clause.
The problem with this is particularly notable in the disaster scenario and the spouses pass together. In that scenario, the estate passes to the younger of them (who is deemed to have survived in law), and then the whole estate passes under the will of that younger spouse. By including both sets of siblings (in this example) in both wills, whatever happens, both sets of siblings benefit.
What are the cons to Mirror Wills?
The main con is perhaps that they are not binding – and either party can change their own will without notice to the other during their lifetime, and after the other dies. So, given the above example, they could cut out their late spouses siblings should they want to.
Mirror wills therefore rely on good faith to some extent. However, the ‘cons’ only really kick in in fairly extreme circumstances, particularly where there are children who are likely to inherit. That said, a survivor would be able to change anything – even any gifts to children.
There is only so much any will can do to cover off all eventualities.
Controlling from the Grave!
A rather macabre phrase that refers to us trying to get our will stuff that’s not feasible long after we have passed. As above, mirror wills perhaps rely on an element of good faith that the surviving spouse will see through the combined wishes of both parties.
Endeavouring to control that requires you to either:-
- Trusts – create trusts rather than outright gifts
- Mutual wills – a rarely used concept where mirror wills (typically) go one significant step further and purport to bind each testator (person making the wills) to never revoke or change them either during the lifetime of their spouse, or after their death
The terms of a mirror will need to cover all of those things that any other will would.
Are Mutual Wills Mirror Wills?
As above, mutual wills tend, by their nature, to be mirror wills. However, a mirror will is simply a will which reflects/matches the content of another will. A mutual will refers to a further legal concept which seeks to remove from both parties the otherwise absolute legal right to revoke an existing will and make a new one.
The scenarios in which mutual wills can unsatisfactorily tie the hands of both spouses is endless! And, as a practitioner of many years, my only experience of mutual wills has been trying to clear up problems that they have caused!
Will we have one Mirror Will?
No, it is a myth to imagine that a couple have one will. Even mirror wills require one will per person!
What if I dies without a Will?
If you die without a will then the law decides who gets what – not you! It is called ‘intestacy’. It is a potential minefield, and you will just be leaving your loved ones with a headache they could well do without. Read about who gets what when you die ‘intestate’ (without a will).
How much does a Mirror Will cost?
A mirror will is free if you are happy to have a stab at it yourself. But, it is arguably one of the most important legal documents you will ever sign. That being so, its surely worth considering employing a wills solicitor to do it and make sure it is done correctly? The relatively modest cost is probably less than your last car service!
> Check out our latest prices
What is the process for making a Mirror Will?
Making a will with QLAW couldn’t be easier. Before the meeting, we would point you in the direction of all of the info you need to be ready with your decisions on things like executors etc. Then, all it takes is:-
- Zoom meeting – with our expert mirror wills solicitors (15-30 mins typically)
- Drafting – we send you draft wills immediately after the meeting with you
- Sign – subject to your being happy with the drafts that’s it!
Want to go ahead?
It is estimated that more than half of the adult population know they should have a will but don’t have one! Don’t leave it a moment longer! Call our wills hotline, email us or fill in the short form below to get your will finally done!
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