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What is a Mirror Will & How Can It Be Problematic?

Posted on January 11, 2021 by Chris Kirker

Many couples think about using mirror wills to provide for each other and their children in the event of their death. Mirror wills can be effective and cost-efficient in some cases. However, a mirror will does not work for many couples, and they come with certain risks that couples may want to avoid. 

Mirror wills are virtually identical wills that say almost exactly the same thing – they mirror each other. They are used by spouses who want all their property to pass to the surviving spouse upon the first spouse’s death. Upon the death of the second spouse, a mirror will usually passes the remaining estate to the couple’s children. 

Because mirror wills are virtually identical, they are most appropriate for couples who agree on what to do with their estate. A spouse who has children from a previous relationship may want to leave part of his or her share of the estate to those kids. A mirror will could not give each spouse what they want under these facts. If a couple cannot agree on where they want their estate to go, mirror wills cannot provide the flexibility to give each one what they want.

Importantly, even when couples agree on the disposition of their estate, they may choose to avoid them because of how easy they are to change. If one partner wants to change their mirror will, they can do so at any time, and the other partner may never know. Even after the first spouse’s death, the second spouse may change their will. There is nothing requiring the second spouse to follow the agreement reached at the time the mirror wills were executed. Given the problems that can arise from mirror wills, it is often wise for each spouse to consult with an attorney about their estate planning goals. 
If you would like to learn more about mirror wills and potential alternatives, please contact Kirker|Davis today.

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