We would recommend each person has a Will. You can make a Will as long as you are over 18, of sound mind and wish to make a Will.
A correctly executed Will ensures your wishes are carried out, when you pass away, by your chosen Executors. Your Will deals with all of your assets and debts which your Executors will collect in the estate, pay any debts, arrange your funeral in accordance with your wishes and distribute the assets/funds to your chosen Beneficiaries named in the Will.
A Will gives you peace of mind knowing your assets will be properly dealt with when you pass away and will be inherited by the people (or organisations) you wish to receive them.
A Will also gives authority, straight away following your death, to your Executors to deal with your affairs. If someone dies without leaving a valid Will in place, they have died ‘intestate’ and the law decides who can deal with the estate (called Administrators) and who will inherit it. An Administrator does not have any legal authority to deal with an intestate person’s affairs until they have successfully obtained a Grant of Letters of Administration. Often, this leaves a person’s estate in ‘no man's land’ until the Grant is obtained (which can take months!).
For two people, Mirror Wills can be made. You do not have to be married or in a civil partnership to have Mirror Wills in place as they can be made by any two people. Mirror Wills could be made by two siblings for instance.
In essence, Mirror Wills are two Wills that are almost identical (or a near mirror image) to each other. A common example is a couple whose Mirror Wills leave everything to each other in the first instance and then, on the second of them to die, they leave everything to their children equally. Another alternative is two siblings who wish to leave everything to each other in the first instance and on the second death, everything is to pass between three of their agreed chosen charitable Beneficiaries, equally.
A Beneficiary under the Mirror Wills can be whomever you wish, it does not have to be family members for instance. For example, your Beneficiaries could be friends or charities. Just be wary if you are cutting someone out of your Will as this may open your estate up to a potential challenge by a disappointed Beneficiary. As part of our advice, when drafting a Will for you, we would discuss your circumstances thoroughly to identify any potential claims against your estate and whether any inheritance tax may be payable by your estate when you pass away.
Mirror Wills are very common and we would always recommend putting a Will in place. The important thing to note however is the survivor of the two people who have made Mirror Wills has the freedom to change their Will at any time whilst they have capacity. Trusting each other is therefore vital.
If you are concerned that the person making a mirror Will with you would change their Will after your death or re-marry (which would invalidate their Will until they made a new one) then we can advise you as to how you can protect your assets for your ultimate beneficiaries without financially disadvantaging your partner during their lifetime. This is particularly important if you and have a child or children from previous relationships.
If you wish to take advice in respect of making a Will, or Mirror Wills, our Private Client Team are available to answer any questions you have. Please feel free to email our Private Client Paralegal, Rachel Frammingham, at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like assistance with making a Will.