Mirror Wills - Why They May Be Right For You
“Mirror Wills” are commonly spoken of in estate planning, but what is a Mirror Will? In this article, we explore what exactly a Mirror Will is and its benefits, particularly for couples with joint assets. ## The Mirror Will A Mirror Will is essentially an ordinary will that mirrors the asset distributions of another. If, for example, a will distributes all assets to a particular beneficiary, and another does the same, then the two are considered Mirror Wills. The most common example of this type of will being used is where one spouse wishes to leave everything to the other upon their death, and subsequently to their children (if any) upon the other’s death. This is a Mirror Will since the distribution to each other (and subsequently their child) is mirrored in each will.
Mirror Wills and Joint Assets
Mirror Wills are most practical where a couple owns jointly held assets. Such assets may include jointly held bank accounts and/or real estate. Having Mirror Wills where such assets are concerned may reduce the risk of unequitable asset distributions. For example, suppose a couple jointly owns a HDB flat, and both have left no valid will. In this case, the HDB would pass to the surviving owner. This means that if the husband passes away first, then the HDB would absolutely belong to the wife. If the wife subsequently passes without a will, the Intestate Succession Act will take effect. Under the law of intestacy, where the couple has no children, the HDB would pass to the wife’s parents. Conversely, where the couple has children, the parents of the wife will likely not be entitled to a share in the HDB.
This creates a situation where the deceased husband has contributed financially to the HDB, but is left unaccounted for in the final asset distribution. This is particularly true where the couple has no children. In that case, the law of intestacy stipulates that the HDB would be distributed to the wife’s parents in the first instance. This would also operate in favour of the husband should the wife pass away first. That is, in the case of the example above, should the wife pass away first, the husband’s parents would get the HDB if the couple has no children, and where the couple has children, fifty percent of the HDB would pass to the husband’s parents and the remaining fifty percent would pass to the children. However, if the couple both had wills, and those wills stated that the HDB would instead be distributed to, for example their children, then this problem of unfairness would be avoided since the asset would ultimately be distributed to their children.
Crucially, note that the scenario above will not take place solely in respect of a HDB, but for all joint assets including investment accounts, bank accounts and private real estate. Such wills are called Mirror Wills, since the wills share identical terms; here terms distributing the HDB to their children. In addition, if the couple has no children, or does not want to distribute the HDB to their children, then any common third party may be selected instead.
What's the difference - Mirror Wills and Ordinary Wills
There is no legal difference between Mirror Wills and Ordinary Wills - Mirror Wills are Ordinary Wills that have similar distributions, that is distributions that mirror each other. Accordingly, clauses that allow the husband and wife to appoint different executors, testamentary guardians or different beneficiaries for non-jointly owned assets can still be included in Mirror Wills.
Revocability of Mirror Wills
Note that as a Mirror Will is effectively an Ordinary Will, it may be revoked at any time, and the revocation may be done without giving notice to the other party.
Cost of Mirror Wills
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 Intestate Succession Act (Cap 146, 1985 Ed).  Intestate Succession Act (Cap 146, 1985 Ed) S7 Rule 4.  Does not include illegitimate children, unless they are adopted. See Intestate Succession Act S 3. See also Lim Welpin and Another v Lim Boh Chuan and Others  SGHC 99. Children who are related by the half blood only have the right to a claim if there are no surviving children who are related by the full blood. See Intestate Succession Act S6. See also Re Fenton  1 SLR 448.  Intestate Succession Act S 7 Rule 3.  Intestate Succession Act S 7 Rule 5.  Where the children of the deceased husband have died before him, their legal representatives will share the HDB with the wife to the exclusion of the wife’s parents. See Intestate Succession Act S7 Rule 3. Where the husband leaves no surviving spouse, children or parents, his siblings, if any, may be entitled to the HDB, or his grandparents if he has none. See Intestate Succession Act S7.  For the definition of “child” see footnote 3.  This is within the context of Singapore law. The rule of survivorship may not apply to jointly held overseas assets.