INFORMAL DOCUMENT SUPPORTING YOUR WILL
A “Letter of Wishes” (sometimes known as a “Statement of Wishes”) is an informal document that can be made in support of your existing Will. It is important to note that a Letter of Wishes is not legally binding.
A “Letter of Wishes” is often utilised as a simple guide to assist your executor(s) in administrating your estate the way you want. Whilst a properly drafted Will does this for you, the formalities and strict wording of the Will can sometimes make it confusing or difficult for your executor(s) to understand. A Letter of Wishes assists your executor by setting out in plain, simple language how and to whom your estate is to be distributed to.
As a Letter of Wishes is an informal document, it is not included as part of your Will. Instead, it should be addressed to the executor(s) of your Will and provided to them upon your passing. The Letter of Wishes is intended to be a confidential document to be read by your executor(s) only for the purposes of understanding your intentions and the reasons for why you have administered your estate in the manner that you have. Having said this, your beneficiaries should not be provided a copy of your Letter of Wishes.
Reasons for preparing a Letter of Wishes
The key reasons for why someone would prepare a Letter of Wishes include:
Explaining certain distributions (or lack of)
A Letter of Wishes can explain why someone has been left out of your Will or why you have left him/her a portion of your estate that may be considered inadequate in their view.
Location of personal documents or assets
Listing out the locations of your personal documents or assets that your executor may need to distribute your assets or access certain documents/information for the purposes of administering your estate. You can also provide your login details for specific accounts in your name.
Providing your preferences regarding your children
You may list out who you want to be the guardian(s) of your minor children, as well as your preferences in relation to other major choices such as their education and schooling, religion, values and so forth.
Funeral arrangements and burial
You may list out how you want your funeral to be arranged, including how the funeral expenses are to be paid (potentially from your assets), and how you wish to be buried or cremated.
Importance of a properly drafted Letter of Wishes
Whilst a Letter of Wishes can be helpful in assisting your executor(s) in understanding how exactly you want your estate administered, it is crucial that the letter is properly drafted in a manner that does not contradict or differentiate to how your Will would be read.
Having a contradicting Will and Letter of Wishes opens the risk of family provision claims and litigation.
Accordingly, having a solicitor who specialises in drafting Wills and Letter of Wishes can assist to ensure that the distribution clauses in your Will and your wishes in your letter are aligned and do not contradict each other.