Mirror wills

Mirror will: not a legal term

While there is no legal definition of a ‘mirror will’, the term is commonly used to refer to the situation when two people make individual wills with essentially the same provisions as each other. Usually, each partner leaves everything to the other, and they both name the same people (generally their children) who will inherit if the other partner has already died.

People often want to make a 'joint will' with their partner. However, in order to give effect to their joint plans they actually have to make two wills: mirror wills.

Mirror will can also loosely refer to a number of similar arrangements, some of which are discussed further on our What is a mirror will? page.

The most important point to note is that mirror wills are separate documents, and do not need to be absolutely identical, or even include the term ‘mirror will’ to be effective. They are also sometimes referred to as ‘complementary wills’ or ‘matching wills’.

While anyone can make a mirror will, they are most appropriate for married couples, civil partnerships, or permanent cohabiting relationships. They are particularly useful for couples who are neither married nor in a civil partnership, because their property will not go to their partner automatically under the intestacy rules. It's easy to make two wills with matching provisions using Bequeathed.

However, mirror wills are not so suitable for complicated arrangements. If you and your partner would like to distribute your estates differently, it will be better to create entirely separate wills.

Other forms of joint arrangement

The term ‘mirror will’ is also sometimes mistakenly used to refer to other similar legal arrangements. One such arrangement is a joint will, which is in a single document. While technically possible, this is not a recommended practice. Our Joint will page fully explains some of the issues with this type of will, explaining why mirror wills are the only really reliable legal option.

One final variant is the now uncommon mutual will. Mutual wills are two wills made under an agreement not to revoke the will without the consent of the other person involved. Mutual wills are often legally complex documents. The Mutual wills page explains more fully about mutual wills, and contrasts how they function as compared to mirror wills.

(If a term is in bold, that means it's in our Glossary.)