Estate planning is an essential step in a solid financial plan, and is even more important for married couples. Many couples create what are referred to as “mirror wills,” or wills that are identical to each other. This process allows the spouses to bequeath their assets to each other and the same beneficiaries when they pass away.
While mirror wills work well for most couples, they are often tweaked to fit the individual marital situation. After somebody decides to make a will many people wonder whether mirror wills are right for them. Understanding what they are and how they work will help you to make the right choice.
What are Mirror Wills?
The concept of mirror wills
A mirror will may grant the surviving spouse full control over the entire estate and name him executor of the estate or trustee. It may also name the surviving spouse custodian over any minor children. Mirror wills are structured similar to individual wills in that they are drawn up by either an attorney or other will writing service and that they are legally binding.
If both spouses die at the same time, the mirror will stipulates who will become the executor of the estate. In most cases, this is either a trustee or the primary beneficiary. If the primary beneficiary is a minor child, the probate court may appoint a trustee to handle the estate. It is important to account for these contingencies in your will and to be prepared with backup solutions in case things don’t go according to your plans.
Appointing Guardians for Minor Children
In the case of the death of one or both spouses, the mirror will can specify who should become the guardian of any minor children. It is advised that couples appoint a primary guardian or guardians and backup guardians in case the primary guardians die before the children reach adulthood. Bear in mind that without these safeguards in place, it will be up to the courts to decide who will become guardians of the children. This can mean years of legal wrangling with the children caught in the middle.
Cons of Mirror Wills
Mirror wills don’t work for every couple. Typically, they work best for couples that hold all of their property jointly. If one spouse has separate property, it can complicate matters when it comes to bequeathing assets. If the two spouses are not passing on the same identical property, it will invalidate the mirror will. In this case, experts recommend that couples either draft separate wills or draw up joint wills that will allow them stipulations on what property is passed to whom.
Another con of the mirror will is that either spouse can change it at any time without the knowledge or consent of the other. Any changes are legally binding and you will be stuck with the consequences of these changes. Mirror wills demand a certain degree of trust that your wishes will be carried out.
If you acquire new property or sell an asset, you will need to make changes in your will. If your relationship with your beneficiary changes, you will need to designate a new beneficiary or elect a new trustee. Be sure that you are both on the same page when it comes to making changes or else there will be headaches when it comes time to deal with the terms of the will.
A living will is one that takes effect while you are still alive and spells out your wishes should you become incapacitated or unable to care for your own needs. A living will is an important part of an overall financial plan because it gives your spouse the power to make decisions on your behalf and manage the finances accordingly. Living wills are an important part of the financial equation and should be included in your estate planning.
When it comes to making the right choice for your last will and testament, consider hiring a will writing service to get you the documents you need. Find one today.