If you have made a Will, you can also consider writing a letter of wishes to accompany it. We look at the purpose of a letter of wishes and why it can be beneficial.
A letter of wishes is a non-binding document that you can leave with your Will. You can use it to set out details and guidance that you would like to pass on to your executors, but that would not normally be put into a Will or that you would like to remain confidential.
You can let your executors know how you would like certain issues to be dealt with and also leave information that you would like passed on to other individuals, such as family members or trustees who will be dealing with assets you may be leaving in trust.
A Will is published when a Grant of Probate is issued by the Probate Registry, meaning that anyone can obtain a copy and read the contents. A letter of wishes will remain private however, meaning you can include details that you would prefer are kept confidential.
What is included in a letter of wishes?
You can include anything you would like to say to your loved ones or to your executors or beneficiaries, but you should take care not to put anything that contradicts the terms of your Will. Issues you might want to address in the letter include:
- Details of the type of funeral you would prefer, such as whether you want a burial or cremation, where you would like to be buried or have your ashes scattered and anything you would like included in your funeral service
- Who you would like informed of your death
- If you have left someone out of your Will or distributed your money in a particular way, your reasons for doing so
- How you would like your personal possessions to be distributed
- Anything you would like to say to guardians appointed to look after your children, such as your preferences in respect of issues such as education and religion
- What you would like your trustees to consider when making payments to the trust’s beneficiaries
- Any preferences for how you would like the trust fund invested, for example, if you would prefer ethical investments
What are the benefits in leaving a letter of wishes
A letter of wishes can be of comfort to those left behind. It can also be immensely helpful to know what your preferences were. In some situations, it can explain your thinking in respect of a decision you have made in your Will and reduce the risk of a dispute arising after your death.
Where executors or trustees have some discretion as to the decisions they make, a letter of wishes can be very useful in providing them with guidance. While the document is not legally binding, it imposes a moral obligation on those to whom it is addressed to try and follow your wishes as far as possible.
You have the opportunity to change a letter of wishes fairly easily, should circumstances change.
Do I need a Will writer to draft a letter of wishes?
It is not essential to have a solicitor or will writer draft your letter of wishes, but you can take legal advice about the contents if you wish, to ensure that it is clear and that it does not contradict the terms of your Will. A solicitor or will writer will also be able to suggest what issues you might want to include in the light of what you have put in your Will.
It can be helpful to write a letter of wishes at the same time as you make your Will, but if you wish to make changes later on, you can replace the letter with an updated version as necessary. You should also review your Will on a regular basis, generally every five years or in the event of any major life changes such as marriage, which automatically invalidates a Will, or the birth of a child.
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