A letter of wishes is a non-binding document created when you make a Will and kept with the Will that can serve as a guide to your trustees regarding specific aspects of your estate.
In this edition of Did you know? we are going to look at the different purposes of a letter of wishes.
Gift of chattels (Your Personal Effects)
If the will gifted personal chattels to the trustees, this should be accompanied by a letter of wishes. This would detail any gifts that you wish to make but do not wish to detail in the will. The advantage of this approach is that you can make changes to this letter at any time without the need to rewrite their will.
This would also be an advisable option if you have a desire to make specific gifts but are unsure of what items they wish to gift or who these gifts should be made to. This way, the immediate requirement for a will can be put into place without delay and you can think over the gifts in your own time and update the letter as you see fit.
If you wish to gift items that hold significant value (sentimental or otherwise), it might be worthwhile to include these gifts in the will as such gifts must be made whereas gifts in the letter of wishes are non-binding and your trustees are not obligated to fulfill those wishes.
Use of trusts
Using a letter of wishes for any trusts that provide the trustees with discretionary powers is highly advisable.
You can express how you wish the trustees to manage your trust as far as their powers allow. A common example is with the use of a discretionary trust for the benefit of a child who may use their inheritance unwisely. The letter can state that the trustees are to only benefit this child in certain circumstances, or only when they reach a certain age.
A letter of wishes assists your trustees in understanding your intentions at the time of making your will and the letter, giving the trustees some perspective when they are making any decisions regarding the trust.
If you are specifically excluding any individuals from your will who could have a claim against the estate under the Inheritance, it is highly advisable for you to write a letter in to detail the reasons for the exclusion. If a claim were ever brought forward, the courts would use any letters of wishes when deciding whether to award the claimant any inheritance.
Again, this allows the courts to gain a perspective and understand your actions of at the time of writing your will.
A letter of wishes can also be used to provide up to date contact details for any person named in the will.
Individuals can move or change their contact number several times between a will being written and the date of death, so the letter can ensure that those details are accurate and kept with the will to assist the executors contact the beneficiaries of the will.
If you do not wish to specify your funeral wishes in your will or decide to change any parts of your wishes at a later date, you can do so in a letter of wishes rather than updating your will.
Care of pets
A letter of wishes can also be used to provide detailed guidance for the care of your pets. This could include keeping multiple pets together, or specifying health and dietary requirements that a new carer of your pets may need to know when they take your pets in.
At the time of writing your will, if you have not decided on who should care for your pets after your death, your pets can be given to the trustees to refer to a letter of wishes. You can later decide on who they would like to care for your pets and include this in a letter of wishes without the need to rewrite the will. If you change your mind at a later date, you can simply amend the letter of wishes.
Care for children
A young parent’s primary concern will naturally be regarding the care of their children. After appointing appropriate guardians for their children in their wills, they may wish to provide guidance for the guardians that they can refer to at any time.
This can express the desire for the children to go to university or follow a particular religion as well as keeping in regular contact with certain family members.
Writing your Letter of Wishes
As you no doubt appreciate by now, writing your Letter of Wishes with care is extremely important.
If you are concerned about the wording of your letter, please get in touch with us as we can certainly help you.
We will arrange to have your letter looked over by one of our Will Specialists to ensure that it is appropriate for your needs. We may even be able to provide you with a template for you to use when drafting the document.
Ancojada Limited trading as Prosperitas Consult is not authorised or regulated to provide financial advice.
All financial advice is provided by other regulated businesses.