mutual wills

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mutual wills

n. wills made by two people (usually spouses, but could be "partners") in which each gives his/her estate to the other, or with dispositions they both agree upon. A later change by either party is valid unless it can be proved that there was a contract in which each made his/her will in the consideration for the other person making his/her will as written. (See: mirror wills)

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mutual wills

wills made by two persons who, in pursuance of an antecedent agreement, leave their estates reciprocally to the survivor. In English law, either will may be revoked during the joint lifetimes of the testators, but equity will specifically enforce the mutual wills agreement (thereby effectively making revocation by the survivor impossible) after the death of one of the parties.
Collins Dictionary of Law © W.J. Stewart, 2006
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The court of first instance decided the allegations of the heirs named in the mutual will were unfounded since it was revoked according to the provisions of the law, which is the only way a will can be revoked.
On August 10, 2010, the Appellate Court of Illinois, Fourth District, determined that a third-party beneficiary is entitled to enforce a contract embedded in a mutual will before the death of the surviving spouse.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals held that Helen's second will was valid, because the mutual will placed no contractual obligation on her to refrain from executing a new will; see Est.
While a regular feature of civil law, the mutual will was unknown to English law until this case.
But its first clear acceptance, and of mutual will at that, appears in the records of those quintessentially "urban (middle-class)" Jews of the eighth and ninth centuries, the Karaites, a product of what has been called the Judaeo-Islamic symbiosis at the height of its medieval flowering.(145) Arch-exponents of intellectual protest and opposition, the Karaites challenged the common practice in the Islamic world that parents control all aspects of their children's marriages, and they asked: "Is it not written [Ruth 4:13] that `Boaz took Ruth,' [to teach us] that by his own will he took her?
For example, the Dutch abandoned the use of the mutual will (which was written jointly by both spouses) by the 1690s, but Dutch men continued to use their legal prerogatives under the common law to ensure their widow's authority over the family estate and postpone their children's inheritance until her death.
Equally, if an agreement not to revoke the wills was essential, the revocation of a mutual will and the subsequent execution of another will largely in conformity with the agreement for mutual wills or the revocation of the will(s) by operation of law upon remarriage, would constitute a breach of the mutual wills agreement.
If you want to limit this aspect of marriage you could draw up a prenuptial agreement which should be signed at least 21 days prior to the marriage, or sign mutual wills which will bind the survivor to divide the estate as previously agreed.
Denny's son took the matter to the Court of Appeal who found that Laura and Denny's agreement made their wills Mutual Wills and it would be unfair to allow Laura to change her will after Denny's death.
Particular issues for seniors include reviewing a will regularly to ensure beneficiaries still survive, exploring options for trusts for grandchildren, and properly managing later life relationships: life estates and mutual wills may be appropriate options.
The court distinguished this situation from a joint representation involving multiple estate planning clients, because it did not involve "mutual wills prepared by the attorney." The court found no conflict of interest, stating that "a lawyer who prepares a will owes no duty to any previous beneficiary, even a beneficiary he may be representing in another matter, to oppose the testator or testatrix in changing his or her will and, therefore, that assisting in that change is not a conflict of interest." The dissent pointed out Florida Ethics Opinion 95-4, finding that the representation of both mother and daughter in various business transactions as well as estate planning created a conflict when the mother decided to change her w ill.
The elderly couple had made mutual wills appointing the other as sole executor to their assets.