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Extended families and inheritance can be a toxic brew, particularly if mirror wills are involved.

Mirror wills are commonly used by married couples who intend to leave everything to each other, and then apportion wealth to their children when the other dies.  They are also useful for second marriages, where the parents wish to leave money to their children and stepchildren, so that no one is left out because of a new relationship.

However, mirror wills are not binding and can lawfully be changed by the surviving spouse at any point, to benefit their biological children over stepchildren, for example.  As long as a widow or widower is of sound mind when they write their will, and the will is witnessed by two people, there is nothing to stop them diverting money away from the beneficiaries of a previously written mirror will.  

An exception applies to mutual wills.  These can contain the same wishes as a mirror will, but the difference is that they are binding upon each other, even when one spouse dies.  This means that the surviving spouse is prevented from making a new will leaving assets to someone else.

To ensure your children are going to inherit more than a tie you need to make sure the wording in your will is explicit and contains terms such as 'these are intended to be mutual wills' and 'binding upon each other'.  Better still you could consider the use of trusts to give you much more robust protection and guarantees.

To have a chat about whether your current planning meets your wishes or how you can ensure you have the best protection in place for your family in the future please get in touch via email - jan.jcwt@gmail.com or give me a ring on 07988722688.