Mirror Will: What You Need to Know

Mirror Will DefinitionMirror Will Definition

Key Takeaways

  • A mirror will is a pair of nearly identical wills created by couples.
  • Mirror wills offer simplicity, clarity, and protection for the surviving partner.
  • They can be changed at any time, provided the person has the legal capacity to do so.
  • Mirror wills may not be ideal for complex estates or blended families.
  • Always consult an estate planning attorney for personalized advice.

What Is A Mirror Will?

A mirror will, also known as a reciprocal will, is a type of will that two people in a relationship (typically married couples or domestic partners) create. The individual wills are nearly identical, "mirroring" each other. The primary goal is to leave the entire estate and property to the surviving partner (primary beneficiary) and then to specified secondary beneficiaries (often children) upon the second partner's death.

Mirror wills are designed to streamline estate planning for couples. They ensure:

  • Protection of the Surviving Partner: If one partner dies, their assets pass in their entirety to the surviving partner.
  • Clarity for Beneficiaries: There's a clear outline of who inherits assets after both partners pass away.

Mirror Wills are separate documents that you and your partner can update or change at any time during your lifetime, as long as you have the legal capacity to do so.

This flexibility allows for changes in circumstances to be reflected in your estate planning without necessarily affecting the other will, unless both of you agree to make corresponding changes.

If you're considering a mirror will, it's vital to consult with an estate planning attorney to understand the legal requirements and potential consequences.


John and Jane have a mirror will. It states that if John dies first, all his assets go to Jane. If Jane dies first, all her assets go to John. Upon the death of the second partner, their combined assets are distributed to their minor children.

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Pros: What Are the Benefits of a Mirror Will?

Mirror Wills offer several benefits, particularly for couples who have closely aligned wishes regarding their estate. Here are the key advantages:

1. Simplicity and Clarity

  • Unified Estate Planning: For couples with similar wishes for their estate's distribution, Mirror Wills simplify the planning process by creating two documents that essentially say the same thing. This ensures clarity and ease in executing the wills, as there's less room for interpretation errors.
  • Streamlined Process: Drafting Mirror Wills can be more straightforward and cost-effective than creating separate wills, especially if the wishes are similar.

2. Mutual Protection

  • Protects Surviving Partner: Mirror Wills ensure that the surviving partner is taken care of by transferring the deceased partner's assets to them. This is particularly important in helping provide financial security and peace of mind.
  • Ensures Children's Future: For couples with children, Mirror Wills can secure the children's future by ensuring they are the ultimate beneficiaries if both parents pass away. This can include appointing guardians in the event both parents die before the children reach adulthood.

3. Reflects Joint Decisions

  • Aligned Wishes: These wills reflect a couple's joint decisions regarding their assets, children, and other important matters, ensuring that both partners' wishes are respected and carried out.
  • Facilitates Agreement: Drafting Mirror Wills requires couples to discuss and agree on important decisions, fostering communication and mutual understanding.

4. Flexibility

  • Can Be Updated Independently: Although Mirror Wills are designed to complement each other, each will is a separate legal document. This means that either partner can update or change their will independently if their wishes or circumstances change, provided they have the legal capacity to do so.

5. Reduces Legal Challenges

  • Prevents Disputes: By clearly outlining the wishes of both partners and ensuring that both wills say the same thing, Mirror Wills can help avoid disputes among surviving family members over the estate's distribution.
  • Legal Recognition: As legally binding documents, Mirror Wills help ensure that the couple's wishes are recognized and enforced by law, reducing the likelihood of successful challenges to the estate distribution.

6. Cost-Effectiveness

  • Economical: Creating Mirror Wills can be more cost-effective than drafting individual wills, especially if the couple's wishes are similar. This can make estate planning more accessible and manageable for many couples.
Always seek professional legal advice to explore all types of wills and trusts for estate planning, ensuring your final wishes are honored in the most effective and legally sound manner possible.

Cons: What Are the Drawbacks of a Mirror Will?

While Mirror Wills can be a convenient and effective estate planning tool for many couples, they also come with certain drawbacks that are important to consider:

1. Lack of Autonomy in Future Changes

  • Dependence on Mutual Agreement: Changes to one partner's will often require agreement from the other, especially if the intention is to keep the documents mirrored. This could complicate situations where relationships change or partners no longer share the exact wishes.
  • Potential for Disagreement: If one partner wishes to make changes due to altered circumstances (e.g., new family dynamics or financial situations) but the other does not, it could lead to conflict or difficulties in maintaining the mirrored aspect of the wills.

2. Risks Upon Relationship Breakdown

  • Complications after Separation: In the event of a separation or divorce, if Mirror Wills are not updated, it could lead to unintended beneficiaries. For example, an ex-partner could still inherit the estate if the wills are not revised to reflect the new relationship status.
  • Overlooked Revisions: People sometimes forget to update their wills after a significant change in their relationship status, potentially leading to legal and emotional complications for the intended heirs.

3. Independent Changes Could Affect Joint Intentions

  • Unilateral Revisions: Since each will in a set of Mirrored Wills is legally independent, one partner could change their will without the knowledge or consent of the other. This could undermine the original joint intentions and lead to unexpected outcomes upon one's death.

4. Limited Flexibility for Complex Situations

  • Not Suitable for Complex Estates: Mirror Wills might not be the best solution for couples with complicated family situations (e.g., blended families) or those with significant individual assets they wish to distribute differently.
  • One-Size-Fits-All Approach: The mirroring aspect might not accommodate individual estate planning wishes or needs outside the couple's mutual agreements, making it less flexible for personalizing estate distribution.

5. Potential Legal Challenges

  • Risk of Challenges: If a Mirror Will is changed by one partner (especially in secret), it could lead to legal challenges by the surviving partner or other beneficiaries, particularly if the changes are significant and unexpected.
  • Interpretation Issues: Mirror Wills can cause difficulties if both partners die at the same time or in unclear circumstances, making it hard to interpret and follow their wishes.

6. False Sense of Security

  • Assuming Automatic Updates: Couples might think that changes in one partner's will automatically update the other's will, which is not the case. This misunderstanding could lead to discrepancies between the wills over time.
  • Neglecting Individual Wishes: Relying too much on the mirrored structure could lead to overlooking individual wishes or considerations that may be important to each partner separately.

It's essential for couples to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of Mirror Wills carefully. Consulting with a legal professional specializing in estate planning can help identify the most suitable approach based on individual circumstances and ensure that both partners' wishes are accurately and effectively documented.

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Considerations for a Mirror Will

Here's a breakdown of key considerations to keep in mind when deciding if a mirror will is the right fit:

Situations Where a Mirror Will Might Work Well

  • Similar Estate Planning Goals: You and your partner are on the same page about how you want your assets distributed both during your lifetimes and after your deaths.
  • Simple Estates: Your combined assets are relatively simple (e.g., home, investments, bank accounts) and not subject to significant estate tax concerns.
  • Desire for Simplicity: You prioritize a streamlined estate planning process and a clear understanding of how your assets will be handled.
  • Mutual Trust: You have a high level of trust in your partner and are confident they won't detrimentally change their will after your death.

Scenarios Where a Mirror Will Might Be Less Suitable

  • Complex Estates: You have significant assets, business interests, or potential estate tax implications that require more tailored planning.
  • Blended Families: You or your partner have children from previous relationships and want more specific control over how assets flow to them.
  • Desire for Maximum Flexibility: You anticipate that your financial circumstances or wishes for asset distribution might change significantly over time.
  • Potential for Future Conflict: If there's any uncertainty about your partner maintaining the spirit of the mirror will, or if you foresee potential disputes among beneficiaries, a more individualized estate plan might be wiser.

Additional Considerations

  • State Laws: Estate planning laws differ slightly between states. Always consult an attorney in your jurisdiction to understand the specific rules affecting mirror wills.
  • Changes over Time: Remember, even if a mirror will suits you now, you can always revise or create new wills as your circumstances change. Regular reviews with your estate planning attorney are advised.
  • Alternatives: If mirror wills aren't the ideal fit, consider exploring trusts, individual wills with specific terms, or other estate planning tools tailored to your unique needs.

It's always best to consult with a qualified estate attorney to determine whether a mirror will aligns with your goals and to explore other potential options.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a mirror will vs joint will?

  • Mirror wills are two separate legal documents with nearly identical provisions, usually created by spouses.
  • A Joint Will is a single legal document in which a couple outlines how their combined assets will be distributed upon both individuals' deaths.

What is the difference between a mutual will vs mirror will?

  • A Mutual Will involves a legal agreement between parties (often spouses) to not change their wills after one has passed away, essentially locking in the estate plan.
  • A Mirror Will consists of two separate but identical wills that either party can change at any time during their life, offering more flexibility but less certainty about the final estate distribution.

Can a mirror will be changed after one partner dies?

Yes, a mirror will can be changed after one partner dies. Unlike a joint will, mirror wills are separate legal documents, allowing the surviving partner the flexibility to make changes to their own will.

Who is the executor in a mirror will?

In a mirror will, the surviving spouse or partner is typically named the executor of their deceased partner's will. This approach ensures streamlined estate administration, as the surviving partner is already familiar with the couple's assets and wishes. 

It's common to appoint an alternate executor in case the primary executor is unable or unwilling to serve (like if both partners die simultaneously).


Mirror Wills stand out as an essential tool for couples looking to align their estate planning efforts. They provide clarity and security for the future and ensure that your shared vision for asset distribution is honored. Whether you're just beginning to explore estate planning or seeking to refine your existing plans, consider how a Mirror Will can fortify your commitment to each other and your family's future.

Take advantage of our free-will creation service from Fabric by Gerber Life. It's quick, easy, and the perfect way to begin securing your legacy. Start planning for tomorrow, today.3


  1. Mirror Wills - Cornell Law School - Legal Information Institute. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/mirror_wills
  2. What are mirror wills? - Policygenius. https://www.policygenius.com/wills/what-are-mirror-wills/
  3. Free Will from Fabric by Gerber Life, a member of the Western & Southern Financial Group Family of Companies. https://www.westernsouthern.com/about/family-of-companies.

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