Mirror Wills vs Mutual Wills – what’s the difference?

A mirror will is a simple will that is, for the most part, identical to that of their partner or spouse. a mutual will is where each partner or spouse makes a will which forms a binding contract between them.

What is a Mirror Will?

Mirror Wills are usually used by couples. They are mainly identical to and reflect each other.

They may be changed or revoked at any time by either Will-maker.

Mirror Wills: Positives

A mirror will can be changed at any time, even after the death of the other will-maker. A mirror will may be useful for young couples and blended families as they may need to make changes in the future.

Mirror Wills: Negatives

Changing both mirror wills or changing or revoking only one of the mirror wills does not require notice to be given to the other will maker. For example, a surviving husband may decide that he no longer wants his step-children to inherit anything, including the assets he acquired through his first wife’s estate. The husband may revoke his mirror will and create a fresh will which excludes the step-children.

There are cases where a surviving spouse re-marries and has more children, then changes his or her Will to leave his or her estate to the new spouse and new children and cuts out the children from the first marriage.

What is a mutual Will?

Mutual wills (also known as mutual will contracts or binding wills) form a legally binding contract between two people. Both wills are drafted in terms agreed by the will-makers; and the wills prevent either will-maker from revoking or amending their will without the other’s agreement. After the death of the first will-maker, both wills become irrevocable and cannot be amended.

Mutual wills work as a contract to protect the estate interests of both will-makers’ beneficiaries.

Mutual Wills: Positives

Where both will-makers have agreed to the terms in their wills, the surviving party is bound by this agreement and can be sued for breach of the agreement.

If either will-maker changes their will contrary to the agreement, the courts may enforce the original agreement.

If the surviving party unreasonably exhausts the deceased’s assets, beneficiaries may sue for breach of contract.

Mutual Wills: Negatives

Mutual Wills do not prevent challenges to the estate.

Circumstances may change after the will makers have signed the mutual will agreement, which could disadvantage the survivor (e.g. remarriage or additional children).

The survivor may attempt to frustrate the operation of the mutual will agreement by depleting the estate assets or by changing the way these assets are owned.

What now?

Contact us for advice and assistance in establishing mirror wills or mutual wills.

Close Menu