What is a mirror will?
When they decide to get a will, many couples opt for a “mirror will”. They are seen as more cost effective than buying two individual wills. This is because a single document can be produced that covers the wishes of both partners.
As the name suggests, the wishes of one partner mirror those of the other. For example, a husband would leave everything to his wife in the event of his death, and the wife would leave everything to her husband if she died first.
You don’t have to be married to get a mirror will. You could be in a civil partnership or just be in a relationship, but both of you need to be over 18 and, as is usually the case in legal matters, of sound mind.
It’s far better to have a mirror will than no will at all. If you don’t have a will, the rules of intestacy come into play. So-called ‘common law’ partners receive no protection at all because the estate passes to blood relatives: children first, parents second, and so on.
Married couples and couples in a civil partnership automatically inherit the first £250,000 of an estate from their partner. But sorting out the estate is likely to take longer if there is no will. If there is more than £250,000, children receive half of the surplus, although they won’t actually receive it until they’re 18 years old.
One problem with mirror wills occurs if the surviving partner in a couple remarries. When they die, there’s nothing stopping the new spouse from changing their will. In some cases, this has resulted in children from the original marriage being disinherited and receiving none of the estate.
A trusted resolution
To ensure this doesn’t happen, you can set up a trust in your will. A trust is a legal entity governed by at least two trustees – typically close friends and family members. Trustees have to carry out the wishes set out in the will so there’s less opportunity for family disputes.
Typically, a trust pays money to children when they reach a certain age. A trust can also include a property, which is a huge benefit when it comes to keeping the estate intact.
That’s because, if you’re taken into a local authority-run care home, the local authority can sell your house to pay the fees. But that can’t happen if the house has been placed in a trust, allowing children to inherit this prized asset no matter what happens to their parents.