Mutual wills are one method of addressing estate planning challenges common in blended families. In a mutual wills agreement, the will-makers sign a contract whereby they agree to be legally bound not to change their respective wills without the consent of the other. Unlike a regular will which is revocable, in mutual wills there is an express or implied contract not to revoke a will once one of the parties is deceased. Mutual wills are commonly used in circumstances where partners wish to leave their estates to one another on the condition that after the second partner dies, they will leave agreed assets to the children of the other partner. Essentially, the mutual wills agreement ensures the surviving partner won’t create a new will leaving out the children of the deceased partner.
One of the main advantages is that the surviving party has greater freedom to deal with assets, whilst upholding the joint wishes of the will-makers. There are some inherent disadvantages. For example, the survivor may attempt to circumvent the mutual will agreement by disposing of assets. In addition, as with regular wills, mutual wills remain subject to court review under the Succession Act.
Given their complexities, it is vital that anyone considering a mutual wills agreement seeks legal advice. Contact M+E to discuss the suitability of estate planning options to your individual circumstances.