What are they?
A Mutual Will is an arrangement whereby two people, typically a couple, agree to make identical Wills and to not change their respective Will without the consent of the other. After the death of the first of them, the survivor is unable to change their Will.
Why have mutual wills?
Mutual Wills are popular for couples in second marriages and/or blended families.
For example, a couple each have two children from previous marriages. Both parties have assets in their own name. On the death of the first of them they want the survivor to inherit the whole estate, because the survivor might live for many years and need the inheritance. On the survivor’s death, the parties agree that the survivor’s estate is to be divided equally between all four children.
Mutual Wills are usually accompanied by agreement or deed that confirms the intention of the parties to be bound by their mutual Will contract.
There are problems with mutual Wills. For instance, the existence of a mutual will contract does not prevent a person from making a claim for greater provision from the deceased’s estate under family provision legislation.
Also, the surviving party might dispose of, or grant interests in relation to, the property that was the subject of the agreement.
Are there any alternatives?
Clients considering making mutual wills should obtain specialist advice to understand fully the advantages and disadvantages of such arrangements and any alternatives that may be more suitable, such as life interest trust arrangements.
Thinking of mutual wills?
If you are contemplating a mutual will or require advice as to alternatives please contact one of our experienced estate planning team members.