What Is a Letter Of Wishes?

by Daniel Wilson

8 February 2023

A Letter of Wishes is a non-legally binding document that runs alongside and in conjunction with your Will and offers the testator (the person creating the Will) the opportunity to set out further guidance to the executors and trustees of their Will.

There is no set structure to a Letter of Wishes and you can use this discretion to make your executors, trustees or wider family aware of the views and wishes for your assets, how your executors and trustees should exercise their powers or anything else you wish elaborate on.

A huge benefit of a Letter of Wishes is that it does not need to be witnessed. Which in turn means you can update and alter it at any time to reflect any changes in your circumstances or wishes relatively easily.

A further benefit to a Letter of Wishes is that it will usually be confidential. Unlike a Will, a Letter of Wishes does not become a public document if a grant of representation is obtained and thus you can en-sure only those you want to see it, see it. For this very reason, many opt to utilise a Letter of Wishes to provide detailed guidance that would not normally be provided in writing. It should be remembered however that the guidance expressed in a Letter of Wishes is not binding on the executors and trustees unlike the terms of a Will.

What should be included in a Letter of Wishes?

Some common examples of what you might include within a Letter of Wishes:

  • Advice for guardians on how to raise your children and when money should be accessed for them.
  • Explanations on why someone was excluded from your Will. This is particularly important if you think they may challenge your Will after your death.
  • Who to notify on your death and sometimes, who not to tell.
  • Your funeral and wake wishes.
  • What to do with specific personal items such as photos and jewellery and how you would like them to be distributed.
  • How long a trust should continue and or when beneficiaries should receive their share.
  • Tax benefits that could be used.
  • Contact details of professionals for your executors and trustees to engage where needed, e.g. accountant or financial adviser details.

Ultimately, a Letter of Wishes is a flexible document that supports your Will and helps those distributing your estate ensure they have done so in a way that is in line with what you intended and wished for. A Letter of Wishes can therefore be amended to suit your personal circumstances.

The information contained in this update is for general information purposes only and is not legal advice, which will depend on your specific circumstances.

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