What is a Letter of Wishes?
While you might be asking yourself ‘what is a letter of wishes’, if you’re considering the future, it might be worth getting to grips with this potentially vital piece of estate planning. A Letter of Wishes, sometimes referred to as a Memorandum of Wishes, can be an incredibly useful document designed to complement and add to your Last Will and Testament.
In all stages of life, we usually feel that it’s very important for our wants and wishes to be understood by as many people as possible. A Letter of Wishes is the perfect tool to do this. It acts alongside your primary will and ensures that everybody involved understands your intentions and your goals.
This underused estate planning tool could be perfect for you. Read our blog to find an answer to the question ’what is a Letter of Wishes’, to learn more about what you can include in one, and much more.
What is a Letter of Wishes in a Will?
A Letter of Wishes is a document created and addressed to your executors and trustees to provide guidance regarding how you want your estate to be dealt with after death. It is used to make clear exactly how you intend your assets to be handled, how you would like your executors/trustees to act, etc.
In order for a letter of wishes to be seen as binding, it must be stored somewhere that it can be found. As a result, your best bet is to store your letters within, but not paperclipped to, the Last Will and Testament to which it is linked. A paperclipped addition to a will is grounds for a party to suspect that somebody may have added a document to the will without the initial will writer’s blessing.
If preferred, you can write multiple letters. The benefit of this is that you can include different information on different letters. These different letters can vary in topics, who is intended to receive them, etc. and can further guide the relevant parties, to ensure that your exact wishes are carried out. Additionally, should you choose to do so, you could include particularly confidential information in separate letters. This ensures that only the necessary people can see them.
Another benefit of a memorandum of wishes is that it allows for a party to alter their wishes without needing to formally amend their will. If you’re making considerations for your future and are wondering ‘what is a letter of wishes’, consider speaking to an expert.
What does a Letter of Wishes Cover?
Your Letters of Wishes can, essentially, cover anything you want. This is because there are no clear rules in place stating what one should contain. It can cover virtually any base — to guide your executors/trustees on the specifics of your wishes. Your letters can include considerations regarding the distribution of personal effects, funeral wishes, and much more.
However, while there is no legislation to state what you can and can’t do with your Memorandum of Wishes, there is one thing you should try to always avoid doing. Since the goal of the letters is to complement your will, to clarify situations for your loved ones, you should aim to always ensure that your letters do not in any way contradict or fall in conflict with the contents of your actual Last Will and Testament. This is particularly worth remembering if it’s been a while since your will has been updated. Consider checking on additions and alterations to your will today.
A selection of what you may wish to include within your Letters of Wishes include:
- Which personal items you intend for specific people to receive.
- Details about how you wish for young children to be dealt with. This can include things like how you wish for them to be educated going forward, whether you want them to be raised following any faith.
- Instructions with regards to who you wish to notify of your passing and how.
- You may make a note for your beneficiaries on how best to plan for inheritance tax.
- Justify decisions you may have made. This is most common if you feel that you must explain a controversial opinion, such as if you have omitted a family member from your will for any reason.
- Details regarding your funeral wishes.
- How will the executor(s) handle assets such as investment portfolios or other alternative income streams.
- How long you intend for your trust to remain in place.
- Guidance on how you would like your estate to be managed.
As mentioned above, one of the great benefits of adding a Letter of Wishes to your estate plan is that it allows you to update your wishes at virtually any time. This allows you greater flexibility. All that is required of your Memorandum of Wishes is that it is written in clear and easy to understand English and is signed and dated whenever you make alterations.
Can an Executor Ignore a Letter of Wishes?
Due to the non-binding nature of a Letter of Wishes, it is always worth remembering that your wishes may not, for absolute certain, be carried out exactly as you wished. This is because your trustees/executors are under no legal obligation to exactly follow what is contained in your letters.
However, Letters of Wishes are widely seen to be the clearest indicators possible of what the interests of the deceased party were prior to death. Therefore, a legal professional will likely strongly encourage all parties to follow anything laid out in one.
Create a Letter of Wishes With Just Wills and Legal Services
While you are not required to get the assistance of a legal professional to help you to draft your Letter of Wishes, you may wish to consider the benefits of having an expert behind you in the process. If you are considering creating a Memorandum of Wishes of your own, you’re in the right place.
The Just Wills and Legal Services team have decades of experience in estate planning — allowing us to amass a wealth of knowledge and skills when it comes to every detail to ensure that your loved ones are left with as stress free a time as possible.
Planning ahead to this extent can be a difficult process. We understand that you may not want to think about exactly what will happen after death. This is why we are able to work with you to make the process of creating your Letter of Wishes as painless as possible. We can listen to what you want and do the work of carefully wording and structuring it into the document.
Our team is on hand to assist you in all aspects of estate planning, so we can support you with a great variety of your needs. In addition to our will writing services, we can also support you in the creation of a Trust, appointing a Powers of Attorney, and much more. If you would like support in any of our services, or you find yourself still unsure on ‘what is a letter of wishes’, find out how we can help today.
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