Mutual wills v Mirror Wills: what’s the difference?

An issue that can confuse some couples considering making a will is that of mutual wills and mirror wills.  So what are they? What are differences? And what does it mean for you?   The expert wills lawyers at Rogerson Law Group are highly experienced in advising clients on the terms of their wills.

Mutual wills

Where two people each make a will and agree with each other not to change them and one party then dies, the surviving party is prevented by law from altering the terms of their original will and leaving his or her estate to others.

This is the ‘doctrine of mutual wills’ and means that the beneficiaries under the original will can take legal action for breach of trust against the survivor if he or she changes the terms of the will.  A trust on the property of the survivor in favour of the beneficiaries is effectively imposed if the will is later altered.

However, the difficultly that can lie in taking legal action is the beneficiaries’ problem of proving that the parties entered an agreement resulting in mutual wills.  A claimant will have to provide evidence to show that, in addition to two identical wills, both parties intended the agreement to bind them both. In the absence of a clearly worded and executed written agreement, this may be very difficult.

For this reason, legally effective mutual wills are rare, reflecting the problems that can arise from an evidential point of view.  Where the parties wish to impose a restriction on altering the terms after the death of one party, an alternative arrangement is to have a formal testamentary trust incorporated within the will itself.  Our experts will give you the advice you need.

Mirror wills

A mirror will is a will entered into by one party when, at the same time, a will with the same terms is entered into by another party – usually a spouse or civil partner.  Typically, spouses will wish to leave their estate to each other and then, on the death of the last surviving spouse, to their chosen benefiaries such as their children and grandchildren.

With mirror wills, there is nothing to prevent the survivor making a new will in due course, such as after the death of the first spouse.  This means there could be potential implications if the survivor were, for instance, to re-marry and then make a new will favouring step-children or further children.

What does this mean for us?

If you and your spouse (or civil partner) wish to make wills with similar terms, it is essential to obtain expert legal advice and to have your wills professionally drafted by experienced will drafting lawyers to ensure your wishes are effectively carried out and your wealth is adequately protected.   

How can we help?

If you wish to make a will, contact the expert wills drafting lawyers at Rogerson Law Group before taking further steps.

Contact us by email enquiries@rogersonlaw.com or call the main switchboard (416) 504 2259.

Let us help you

Contact us as soon as you can for a specialist, strategic wills advice.  Our estate & wills lawyers can help you with your wills, probate and administration need in the entire GTA including Toronto, Scarborough, Mississauga, Vaughan, Brampton, Richmond Hill, Etobicoke, Barrie and other areas with offices located in downtown Toronto, Barrie, and associated offices in Ottawa.