These have been in the spotlight recently following the case of Legg v Burton and you might suppose that Mirror and Mutual Wills mean practically the same thing. Legally they do not and the differences between them can have far-reaching consequences for your estate.
Mirror Wills apply where a couple make, broadly speaking, the same provisions. Typically this may be to leave their estate to the survivor and then to their children on the second death.
Mirror Wills can be revised or re-made at any later date so they are capable of being what is legally termed, revoked.
Mutual Wills are different. They create an agreement between a couple which cannot easily be undone, once made.
The main consequence is that the survivor of the couple will be bound by the agreement they made with their partner or spouse following their death. Whilst on the face of it, this may seem fine, your wishes may change, particularly if your partner or spouse dies unexpectedly early or if you enter into a new relationship.
Whilst it is technically possible, you will still be legally required to include the provisions of your former Mutual Will within your new Will. You will therefore still be held to the agreement made within the Mutual Will.
At VWV, we have seen several examples of disputed estates where a couple have created Mutual Wills without appearing to fully understand the nature of the binding agreement they had entered into.
Whilst in particular circumstances a Mutual Will may prove the appropriate choice, the full extent of the agreement that you are making should be very carefully explored and explained.
Without a crystal ball, we are unable to predict how events will unfold in the future. You should keep your Will under regular review and this is particularly relevant for key stages of your life, such as house purchases, the birth of children or grandchildren, and changes in your finances or other circumstances.
It is vital to seek specialist expert advice when preparing your Will, and to regularly review your wishes with the aid of professional advice. This will give you peace of mind that you remain able to cater for potential changes long-term.