Explaining Mutual Wills
29 August 2017 by Andrea Godfrey
Couples can make Mutual Wills which is when they agree that they will not revoke (cancel) or change them without the other one’s consent. These must not be confused with Mirror Wills which are different. A Mirror Will is simply a Will that “mirrors” another Will but crucially both parties are free at any time to revoke the Will and make another one with different clauses. A Mutual Will creates a binding agreement between the parties which means the survivor cannot change the Will and dispose of the estate in a different manner.
In the recent case of Legg and others v Burton and others  a married couple made mutual Wills and had expressly provided that they would not revoke them. The wills were made in 2000 and where identical in which they gave their estate to each other but if one of them died then everything was to go to their daughters equally. A year later the father died, and thereafter up until 2016 the wife made 13 further Wills on her own accord. During this time the mother’s relationship with her daughters deteriorated but her relationship with her grandchildren became stronger so they were favoured in her subsequent Wills. Her last Will before she died was dated the 12th December 2014 and the estate was gifted to various beneficiaries.
After the mother died, the daughters took the matter to Court and the Court heard evidence from the daughters and the grandchildren who were defending the claim. The daughters’ argument was that the 2001 Wills meant that each parent had agreed with the other that their wills were “set in stone” and they both agreed they would not alter them. If the 2000 Will was accepted then the daughters would share the estate equally between them but if the 2014 Will applied, then the first daughter would receive a legacy of £10,000, and the second daughter £30,000. The value of the mother’s net estate was around £213,000.
The Court heard a lot of evidence from the daughters and the Judge accepted their evidence and said that the parents had “expressly promised each other that having made their wills in the form they had they would not revoke them, and thereby engaged the principle of mutual wills. That being so, the testatrix was not free unilaterally to alter her will and make a new one inconsistent with that of July 2000”
The law on Mutual Wills is very complex and at FJG we can provide professional advice on the legal nature of these type of Wills and whether they are appropriate.
If you are looking for advice on any Wills, Life Planning or Probate matter, feel free to contact our team on 01206 835261 or [email protected].