Joint Wills, Mutual Wills and Mirror Wills – What You Need to Know

When making a Will you are making a will for yourself only. In the strict sense then you cannot make a joint will. This phrase is used to describe a situation where, usually two but sometimes more, people make a will with very similar if not identical terms. If you are interested in making a will like this you may also hear them called mutual wills or mirror wills.

Why make a Joint Will?

The most common situation for a couple to be making a joint will in is of course if they are married and they want to provide for each other and when both are dead for their children or other relatives. As the overall beneficiaries are the same in both wills the terms of the wills are the same with just the names swapped over in each will.

Are joint wills the same as mirror wills?

No, a joint will and a mirror will are not the same under English law, although they share some similarities and people do often use the terms interchangeably when thinking about the same underlying situation.  The key differences between joint wills and mirror will are :-

Joint Will:

  • A single document containing separate wills for two individuals.
  • Each individual’s wishes are distinct, outlining how they want their own assets distributed after their death.
  • Either individual can revoke their part of the will at any time without the other’s consent, as long as they are mentally competent.
  • Rarely used due to potential complexity and challenges in proving individual intentions.

Mirror Will:

  • Two separate wills, each with almost identical content.
  • Both individuals leave their assets to the other person as the primary beneficiary.
  • Each individual can revoke their own will at any time, regardless of the other’s wishes.
  • More common than joint wills but still not as common as individual wills due to potential challenges in proving intent if one person dies and the surviving partner changes their will.

What’s a mutual will?

While the concept of “Mutual Wills” is sometimes used in discussions about estate planning,  and implies a legally binding agreement that 2 people agree to make wills which mirror each others and importantly, that they will not change their will unilaterally., which is not the case.

While individuals might agree not to revoke their wills, this agreement holds no legal weight. The surviving individual can still revoke their will at any time, regardless of the initial agreement.

Why make a new Will if you marry or remarry?

It is worth remembering that if you make a will and then get married or remarried this cancels a previous Will unless it specifically states otherwise. This is because the law presumes that you would want to provide for your new spouse and if you do not make a new will the rules that apply when there is no will make sure that your spouse is provided for. It is a good idea once you are married for the two of you to discuss making a will and decide to whom you would like to leave your joint estates. For most couples making a will becomes a high priority after they start having children as they start to think about guardians for their children if they both died.

What happens to your Will if you get divorced?

Similarly in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, your Will is partially cancelled automatically if you get divorced or your civil partnership is annulled after you have made it. Any gifts in favour of your spouse will be cancelled (unless the Will states otherwise) as will any appointment of them as an executor. Effectively your Will would be read as if they had already died.

As you can see it is really important that you think about making a Will again if there are major changes to your personal circumstances.

For further information or to make an appointment please contact us 020 8464 4242 or email