On my 25th birthday, Lorna Thompson took me to the cinema. We saw Die Hard II. It was the seventh highest grossing moving picture of that year. It was by that rating just ahead of Presumed Innocent. So, we need to talk about joint wills, and mutual wills.

Mirror Wills?

To paraphrase Roger Ebert, that was a summer of loud cinematic expositions, loud explosions and machine gun fire. It was a year of screams and crashes. So, the relief was that Presumed Innocent was a muted movie. This film was adapted from a novel that enjoyed enviable commercial success. That the book is a great work of literature, we’ll leave that question to others to answer.

In print, the prosecuting counsel – I forget what such officers of the court were then called in the land of Lincoln and Washington – delivers a soliloquy. I can hear English teachers everywhere slapping their foreheads in exasperation as speeches in court aren’t usually soliloquies.
The lawyer character, written to betray a lamentably shallow grasp of the rudiments of rhetoric, sought a conviction to give the citizenry a ‘paid-up insurance policy’ that would deprive the accused of the opportunity for recidivism. A ‘paid-up insurance policy’ has a precise meaning, not at all what the character might have wanted to say – making an insurance policy paid-up does not improve or strengthen it any.

Joint Wills

Recently, a prominent publication carried an article which referred to a mutual will. Further on in the write up, there was talk of a joint will.

Thus, inflamed with indignation, I uncorked my fountain pen and fired off a furious letter to the editor.
Mutual wills are a specific style of will – joint wills are a distinct type of document.
Neither of these types of will are synonymous with mirror wills.
Neither of these wills have any place in modern inheritance planning. They have no business in the sort of arrangements you want to be making for your family.

You therefore don’t want to be a beneficiary in such wills. Joint wills are poisonous.
Mutual wills would, sure as a penny to a pound to tie up the estate in years of heart-breaking litigation.
Mutual and joint wills therefore promise mountains of expensive nonsense.
Joint wills and mutual wills are the devil’s work, so, you want to avoid them at all costs.

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