As a couple, it is very important to have a will. You may assume that even without a will, your loved ones will automatically inherit your estate if something were to happen to you. However, that is not always the case. If you are in a relationship, then you risk your loved ones being left without any inheritance at all if you die without making a will.
Advantages of Making a Will If You’re a Couple
The benefits of making wills should not be underestimated. If you have made a will, your loved ones can feel financially settled and assured about the future. With wills in place, you and your partner can jointly plan how you would like to take care of those you leave behind, while factoring in your respective wishes for each other. Having a will helps ensure that your partner is taken care of in the event of the worst happening. It also helps ensure that you are in control of the future distribution of your property and possessions.
Having a will set up also means that if your children are younger than 18, you can appoint a legal guardian who would be responsible for looking after them and taking day-to-day decisions with regards things such as their education, healthcare and where they live, in the event that they are left without a parent.
Couple’s wills can also be more cost-effective to make than two separate individual wills. This is because solicitors generally charge less for couple’s will than they charge for separate wills as they generally require lesser work and preparation.
It is also quicker to prepare couple wills than two singular wills so you can have your will sooner than you might otherwise have to wait.
Writing wills as a couple can help you avoid inheritance tax too. With couple wills, your assets will pass on to your spouse tax-free. The inheritance tax allowance of the deceased partner is automatically passed to the surviving partner and this amount is added to the surviving partner’s allowance after their death.
What kind of will can you set up as a couple?
If you wish to make a will as a couple, there are two kinds of wills you can go for; either a Joint Will, or a Mirror Will. It’s important to know the distinctions between them as they have some big differences.
A Joint Will is one legal document which two people make together and both sign. A Joint Will typically leaves everything to the other partner in the case of one person’s death. The will also dictates how the assets should be distributed after the second partner’s death. For any changes to be made to a Joint Will, both partners need to be present and both need to agree to the changes.
Though seemingly simple, Joint Wills have their advantages and disadvantages. One major benefit of a Joint Will is that its design prevents the surviving partner from changing their mind as regards what should happen to the couple’s assets following the first person’s death.
For instance, if the surviving partner remarries and has stepchildren from this new marriage, these stepchildren can’t be included in the will as beneficiaries since both partners who had the will drawn up and signed are not available to approve any amendment. This is an advantage as it gives you the security of knowing that the will you draw up will be honoured, even if you die first.
However, this can also be seen as a disadvantage. As amendments cannot be made to a Joint Will if one of the partners is dead, there could be occasions when this could pose a significant problem, particularly if major life changes have happened since the first partner’s death. For example, a beneficiary (other than the partner) has passed away so their name needs replacing in the will, or they come into another large inheritance and you feel your estate would be better placed being given to someone else instead. The death of the first partner and the fact that a Joint Will doesn’t allow for later amendments means that the surviving partner would have to go through complex legal proceedings to try and get those changes approved, and even then it’s not guaranteed.
In addition, a Joint Will can tie up property for a long time until after the death of the second partner, which can put other beneficiaries at a disadvantage.
A more popular alternative to a Joint Will, is a Mirror Will. Mirror Wills are two separate documents but in both cases, the will is practically identical to that of the other person. Mirror Wills are usually made between two people who are in a relationship, but they do not have to be. Instead of being one legal document, a Mirror Will involves two, separately written and separately signed wills.
Mirror Wills are known as such because the contents of the wills are practically identical to each other. Though similar however, they are not usually exact copies as some information may differ. This information includes the name of the testator (person making the will), their preferred individual funeral arrangements and sometimes different wishes for some of their assets.
A big advantage of a Mirror Will is that you can determine your estate and asset distribution in the way you like; it does not have to be identical to your partner’s. However, with a Mirror Will, you still gain financial security for you and your partner, although perhaps not as solidly as with a Joint Will, as Mirror Wills can be changed without both partners’ consent. It is far better to have this than no will however. Making a Mirror Will can be vital in protecting a partner you are not married to from the uncertainty that comes with no will. As an unmarried couple, you are given no automatic right to inherit under the Rules of Intestacy, therefore a will becomes essential in these circumstances.
Writing a will grants you the security of knowing that you and your loved ones will be well taken care of and that the assets you work hard to protect will only go to those you designate. It is therefore a job that should not be put off.