What are mirror Wills?


The term ‘mirror Wills’ is used when two (or more) people make Wills which are identical to each other, or in extremely similar terms.

Mirror Wills are not a special type of Will.   Any pair of Wills can be ‘mirror’ Wills, whether the Wills are standard or complex.

Standard Mirror Wills are often requested by couples who wish to leave all their money and property to each other, with the intention of everything then passing to their children when the second of the couple dies.

This type of Will is popular because it is easy to understand and avoids the use of any form of Will trust.

Let’s look at a couple of examples of mirror Wills:

The First Couple

William and Katherine and married and have three young children: George, Charlotte and Louis. 

William executes a Will leaving everything to Katherine, if he dies first.  William’s Will goes on to provide that if he dies after Katherine, all his money and property will pass to George, Charlotte and Louis in equal shares.

Katherine’s mirror Will leaves everything to William, if she is the first of the couple to die.  Katherine’s Will goes on to provide that if she dies after William, all her money and property will pass to George, Charlotte and Louis in equal shares.

Katherine may wish to include in her Will a gift to her sister, Philippa.  This will not prevent the two Wills from being mirror Wills.

Making changes to mirror Wills

Although William and Katherine have both executed their Wills at the same time, and the Wills were either identical or substantially the same, this does not mean that either William or Katherine could not change their Will at any time, if they wished to do so.  Neither of them would need to consult the other about changing their Will, nor would they need the permission of the other to make any changes.   They are both free to revoke their Wills, if they choose to do this.

As with all Wills, whether they are mirror Wills or not, they will only come into effect when the person who made the Will has died.  Until that time, William and Katherine can make as many changes to their Wills as they wish, and they can sell or give away any property that they have left as a gift in their Wills. 

If William dies first, having left all his money and property to Katherine, Katherine is still free to change her Will and leave all of the couple’s money and property as she chooses.

The Second Couple 

Bill and Ted are also married but do not have any children.  They decide they would like to be able to support their favourite charity, the RNLI,  in their Wills, as they are both keen sailors.  They execute mirror Wills, in which Bill leaves everything to Ted but if Ted has died before him, all their money and property will go to the RNLI.  Ted executes an identical Will, leaving everything to Bill, but if Bill has died first, everything that the couple owned will pass to the RNLI.

Bill dies first, and all his money and property passes to Ted.  Since Bill died, Ted doesn’t sail any more and decides he would like to make a new Will and leave everything to the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, and not leave anything to the RNLI.  Ted knows that Bill wouldn’t have wanted this (Bill wasn’t an animal lover) but Ted is under no obligation to leave his money in accordance with Bill’s wishes. 

Although straightforward mirror Wills deal with your affairs in a simple, easy to understand, way they may not be the best way of ensuring your wishes are carried out.

If you think mirror Wills would be suitable for your circumstances but have any unanswered questions about them, please call us on 01308 424808 or email: enquiries@winterbornelegal.co.uk

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Winterborne Legal Services

I am a solicitor and have practiced exclusively in the field of Wills and Probate for the last fourteen years which means that I have a lot of experience in these areas and can help you protect your family in the most cost effective way.