Craig P. Tiller, Esq. | Attorney At Law
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Top Lawyers of Greater Lynchburg | 2022
Serving central Virginia For more than 31 years: 434-338-7093
Craig P. Tiller, Esq. | Attorney At Law
Photo of Craig P. Tiller
Top Lawyers of Greater Lynchburg | 2022
Serving central Virginia For more than 31 years:
434-338-7093

Trusted, Experienced Lawyer
Offering Personalized Guidance
From Start To Finish

Mirror wills versus mutual wills for couples: What to know

On Behalf of | May 25, 2024 | Simple Wills | 0 comments

A lot of couples want very simple wills. They simply want their surviving spouse to inherit everything, and for their adult children to inherit whatever is left when the surviving spouse eventually passes.

Two common options for couples in this situation are mirror wills and mutual (or “joint”) wills. Understanding the difference between them and their implications, however, is important.

What are mirror wills?

These are two different wills a couple can create that reflect each other’s wishes. However, since they are two different wills, each spouse is free to change the terms of their will at any time – without the consent of the other. 

That can be beneficial if you’re seeking the flexibility to add a special bequest to a favorite niece or you want to make adjustments to changing family circumstances, such as the birth of a first grandchild or a shift in your financial situation.

However, that flexibility can also lead to unintended consequences. For example, imagine that you precede your spouse in death. In the years before your spouse dies, they have a falling out with your only child and choose to disinherit them – leaving everything you worked hard to achieve to charity, instead. If the possibility that something like that could happen upsets you, a mirror may not be right.

What are mutual wills?

Mutual or joint wills are a combined legal document that includes a provision that prevents the terms of the will from being changed except by mutual consent. After the death of the first spouse, the surviving spouse is legally unable to alter the terms of the will at all.

Mutual wills can be particularly useful for ensuring that children from previous marriages or specific beneficiaries receive their intended inheritance – and give you peace of mind in that area. However, they lack any real flexibility and can leave one or both spouses deeply frustrated if they have good reason to make changes.

Estate planning is actually a lot more involved than most people realize, even for simple wills. Legal guidance can help you make sure your estate plan is genuinely reflective of your goals and concerns.