The Joint Last Will and Testament

A quick primer on different types of Wills:

We often receive requests at LegalWills for partners to create a Joint Last Will and Testament, meaning that they want one Will to cover the estate planning of usually, a husband and a wife. We even occasionally hear the question “I have now created my Will, does my wife also need one?”

A Joint Will is a single document that covers the Wills of two (or more) people. On the death of each person, the Will is administered for the deceased and the Will is then supposed to serve as the Last Will and Testament of the surviving partner. However, our services cover Canada the US and the UK and our position at LegalWills is that no matter what advantage a couple is seeking to gain from creating a Joint Will, they would be better served with each person having their own individual Will. Joint Wills can cause a number of problems when for example the surviving partner moves on with their life and has a change of circumstance or even a remarriage. It is always unclear how strictly a surviving partner is bound by the terms of an old Joint Will. Historically, Joint Wills were used more frequently because they were regarded as a labour-saving technique to save the lawyer some time, but today with every document being creating automatically, there is hardly any time-saving at all.

In some jurisdictions the term “Mutual Will” is used. These are separate Wills created with an agreement that neither Will is to be cancelled or altered after one of the partners has died. This is a very difficult scenario to protect legally and lawyers often encourage partners to make a moral obligation to each other rather than be bound by a legal document. At LegalWills the same advise applies and we do not support Mutual Wills.

The most common solution for couples is a Reciprocal Will or Mirror Will. This type of Will has each partner naming the other as the main beneficiary with perhaps children as alternate beneficiaries. This is very common not only for married couples but also for civil partners or those in civil unions. Each Reciprocal Will is separate and there is no binding agreement applied to the surviving partner who is perfectly entitled to amend this Will or prepare a brand new Will in the future.

At LegalWills we do not support Joint Wills and if anybody asks us about Joint Wills we tend to discourage them. Neither do we support Mutual Wills.

We do however allow for people to create Reciprocal or Mirror Wills and this aligns with our philosophy that every single person needs to have a Last Will and Testament in place.