Joint Will: A Joint Will is a single document made by more than one person, who jointly hold certain properties. So the different testators decide to make a single Will in order to dispose the assets. The property mentioned is disposed off identically based on the intentions of the people making the Will. The advantage of a Joint Will is that even if one of the testators dies, the surviving partner will be required to act based on the intention of the Joint Will. In other words, the surviving partner of the Joint Will cannot change his/her mind after the death of the other testator. However, the drawback of a Joint Will is that it is comparatively more difficult to execute when compared to a single Will. All the testators will require to agree on how the assets can be distributed after death. Further as there is more than one testator, any change desired by any testator will require redrafting of the Will. As the Joint Will limits the actions of the surviving testator, he will not be able to make changes even if there is a genuine need for it. In other words, the assets will be locked in till all the testators of the Joint Will die, irrespective of any changes which may occur in the interim.
Mirror Will: A Mirror Will is one where two people (usually a couple) jointly hold assets. This is essentially two documents written in the exact manner with similar content. But the name of the testator differs in both the individual Wills. Each spouse declares that the joint property will be inherited by the surviving spouse after his/her death. In case of death of both the spouses, the property is bequeathed to any other beneficiary named in the Will. Note that the intention of both the Wills need to be the same, although the exact wording may be different. A Mirror Will works best when the husband and wife jointly hold assets - property, bank accounts or any other investments. If the couple hold individual assets which they wish to bequeath in addition to joint properties, then it is better to use a Mutual Will.
Mutual Will: A Mutual Will is generally used synonymously with a Joint Will. However, in a Mutual Will, there are two separate Wills, unlike a Joint Will where there is a single document. In this sense, a Mutual Will is like a Mirror Will. The difference is that in a Mutual Will there are properties held in single names in addition to those held in joint names. The two individual Wills are therefore not the same, as the properties mentioned therein are different. The spouses can bequeath their property to each other in the Mutual Will.
The type of Will you should use largely depends on your individual scenario and the mode of asset ownership with your spouse. Each type of Will has benefits and drawbacks. While a Joint Will sometimes becomes operationally difficult, a Mirror Will and Mutual Will largely depend on the couple’s mutual trust. It is recommended to solicit the advice of a professional who specializes in Estate Planning before you make your decision.
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