Mirror Wills: the pitfalls
Mirror Wills are, as the name indicates, Wills made by couples on identical terms, typically leaving everything to each other and then to children or other relatives.
Most couples who come to see us will have initially set their mind on mirror Wills, mainly because they want to “keep it simple” and that “they trust each other to look after the children” or simply because they are less expensive. Regardless of the reasons put forward, we always warn our clients of the potential pitfalls of this type of Wills and in many cases, advise against them for the following reasons:
1. Your spouse or partner is free to change their will at any time, regardless of whether you change yours.
2. If you die first, your spouse or partner can therefore change their Will for whatever reason (i.e. falling out with the children; meeting someone new etc) and disinherit the people whom you wished would ultimately benefit from your estate. It is not unusual particularly for step-children to find their step-parent had changed their will after their parent died and not left them anything.
3. If the survivor remarries and dies before their new spouse, they may inadvertently disinherit your loved ones and cause your estate to pass on to their new spouse and their family. This is because marriage revokes existing Wills. So, in this type of scenario, unless your surviving spouse made a new Will after remarrying which benefited your loved ones on the same terms as the previous Will, their estate or a substantial proportion of it (which will include yours) could pass on to their new spouse under the law of intestacy.
How can you avoid these pitfalls whilst still providing for your spouse/partner?
One of the most practical alternatives is to leave your estate to your spouse/partner under a Life Interest Trust. This enables you to ensure your partner is adequately provided for but at the same ensuring your loved ones are not disinherited either intentionally or unintentionally by your spouse/partner. A life Interest allows this flexibility, because whilst your spouse/partner can benefit from your assets whilst they are alive, they are not legally theirs to give away in their lifetime or in their Will.
At Solomons we treat each case on its own merits and advise you accordingly.
If you would like more information on Life Interest Will Trusts, please refer to our previous blogposts on this matter, where you will find a wealth of information. Alternatively, please arrange an appointment with Alexandra Livesey or Paul Solomons for a free initial consultation and friendly, practical advice.
Contact: 01202 802807