When wills are concerned, most couples believe that one mutual will suffice, when actually, each individual person should make sure the will they are signing represents their last wishes. So how many wills do you need?
Mirror wills and mutual wills are often confused, despite differing in the legal concepts they consist of, as well as the consequences they have for the concerned parties. The only feature they share is that, instead of one person considering the wills’ content, there are two.
Mirror wills contain identical terms and are most commonly signed by couples who have similar wishes on what happens regarding their estate distribution. Both spouses for example may leave everything to their surviving spouse or children.
Due to the similarity between each will, editing the original version will often be much quicker than drawing up a new will entirely. With that, mirror wills may largely appeal to couples looking for a faster and potentially cheaper means of consolidating their asset distribution.
The purpose of creating mirror wills may be to ensure fairness between the parties. However, if a couple are harmonious and open with each other anyway, the requirement for mirror wills seems to lessen. Also, the intention of fairness may actually result in one party simply adhering to the wishes of the other, due to the way in which mirror wills are structured. This structural condition may lead to problems in itself.
Following the writing of a will, circumstances and wishes are likely to change, especially where couples are concerned. There is no legal obligation to be notified about anyone else’s will, and nothing which obstructs a party from making changes to a will. Therefore, whether it occurs upon the death of one spouse or when both are alive, a party is able to alter their original will and simply not tell the other.
Differing from mirror wills, mutual wills are an agreement which is binding between the signing parties so the surviving partner is legally unable to make changes to the will and distribute the estate differently than originally determined.