What is a Letter of Wishes?
Posted on 17th February 2020
When you are making a Will with our team of local solicitors for Wills near you, you may wish to include a whole host of information, such as your wishes for a funeral or cremation or which books you own are to pass to who.
Whilst you can put this information in your Will, our team would always ask you to consider whether putting this information in a separate letter would be better. This is commonly known as a letter of wishes.
You may be sat there thinking: “I want the information to be included in my Will”, BUT consider this.
You currently own ten different books that you would like to leave to specific people, for example, your closest friends. Rather than list these separately in your Will itself, not only lengthening the Will but also costing you money every time you need to change your Will (i.e. if a book gets damaged, or if you lose contact with a beneficiary, or if you get rid of a book), you may decide to use a clever little Will clause leaving all of your books to your Trustees. The clause would stipulate that they must distribute these in accordance with any wishes of yours made known to them within 3 months of your death. You can now write up a list of what goes to who, similar to a letter of wishes, which can be placed alongside your Will.
Now, fast forward ten years and your life has changed (as life does!). You no longer wish to leave your books to your friends, but to a charity. Rather than change your whole Will for the sake of the books, you just update your letter of wishes. This goes on throughout your lifetime, until you’ve died: at this point, the last letter of wishes placed with your Will could be used to distribute your estate.
This doesn’t only apply to books; the Will clause can apply to specific items, such as jewellery, or could more broadly apply to any personal chattels that you own. A letter of wishes means that you can add additional items that you acquire in the future, without incurring additional legal fees!
Another great reason to use a letter of wishes is to outline what you would want to happen at your funeral, or any personal comments that you wish to include with your Will. When a matter proceeds to Probate after somebody dies, their Will becomes a public document, and therefore, if these wishes or comments were included, they would, too, become public. By including these in a separate document, only your executors (also known as your Trustees) are able to see this, and it does not become public.
For people who wish to include provisions for what would happen to their children if they are still minor, or if they lack capacity, after they have died, you can include simple appointment of guardians in your Will. However, if you wish to include more detailed instructions on how the person (or people) should raise your children, the place to do this would be to include the information in a separate letter with your Will, and not in your Will itself. This would allow you to change any instructions, as well as preventing these instructions from becoming public following your death.
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