Mutual Wills were once a popular method for couples to jointly manage their estate and ensure their assets were distributed according to their wishes upon their passing.

They are becoming increasingly unpopular and problematic, with many Will practitioners advising their clients to avoid them given the difficulties that arise following the first individual's death.

What are Mutual Wills?

A Mutual Will is when two individuals make Wills based on a binding agreement that neither will change their Wills, and the provisions for asset distribution are agreed upon.

These Wills aim to create a combined estate plan, usually for a committed couple.

They provide a sense of reassurance that even if one person passes before the other, their estates will pass in line with their agreed intentions.

For example, a husband and wife make Mutual Wills and leave their entire estates to each other and on the death of the survivor, 50% will pass to the husband's children from a previous relationship, and the other 50% will pass to the wife's children also from a previous relationship.

On the death of the first spouse, a trust of the couple's assets arises, and whilst the surviving spouse is free to use the assets, the Mutual Wills ensure that the remaining assets of the couple at the date of the first death are distributed in accordance with the terms of the Mutual Wills.

The use of the assets is restricted to the extent that the use of those assets does not result in the disposition of assets calculated to defeat the terms of the Mutual Will.

What are Mirror Wills?

Mirror Wills are usually made by two people where the contents "mirror" that of the other Will, but the Wills can be changed at any time provided the person has sufficient mental capacity.

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