10 Apr

When writing a will, you must be clear regarding who should be appointed as executors, trustees, or guardians and how your estate should be distributed in a binding fashion. But what about your more general wishes for your estate or your children? A letter of wishes is a handy document you can prepare in addition to your will to provide extra guidance. There are so many uses for a Statement Of Wishes that we can’t list them all in one article, so we’ll focus on the most common uses for them:

1. Give your guardians some guidance

You’ve probably considered who you would want to care for your children if you died while they were still minors, and you’ve probably appointed these people as guardians in your Will. In your Statement Of Wishes, you can express exactly how you would prefer your children to be raised and how you wish the guardians to support them.

2. Make your funeral wishes clear

A Statement of Wishes could include your preferences for burial or cremation and for what kind of ceremony you want. You could even include everything down to what music should be played, what readings should be read, and what kind of flowers should be displayed. It is important that you make your funeral wishes known to your family and include them in a letter of wishes, though. This avoids the funeral being carried out before your wishes are found.

 3. Give instructions to trustees

If you have included any trusts in your will that give your trustees broad powers over how the trust is distributed, known as ‘discretionary trusts’, a letter of wishes is recommended. Under these types of trusts, it is up to the trustees to manage the funds and which of the named potential beneficiaries they benefit. In a letter of wishes, you can include your wishes for how you want the trustees to use their powers; for example, if the trust could benefit your spouse and children, you could request that the trustees treat your spouse as the primary beneficiary for the rest of their life. What you write in a Statement Of Wishes isn’t legally binding; it is just guidance. The trustees should consider it when managing the trust, and professional trustees will try to stick to your wishes wherever possible.

4. Distribute small personal items

You likely have lots of personal chattels. These are defined as ‘tangible movable property’ except money and items held as an investment or mainly for business purposes. It’s quite a broad definition that could include household ornaments, jewellery, furniture and cars. Suppose you have many personal items to gift to specific people. In that case, the easiest way to do this is by including a clause in your will that gifts all items fitting that definition to your executors with a wish that they distribute them following your Statement of Wishes. Once this clause is included, you can write a separate Statement Of Wishes to list the items you want to gift and to whom you want them. This is a very flexible way of dealing with your items. If you change your mind, you can write a new letter without making a new will.

5. Exclude someone

If you have chosen to exclude someone from benefitting from your will, we will advise you on what to include in your Will and what consequences the exclusion could have for your estate. We advise you to write a Statement Of Wishes to detail your reasons for the exclusion, as the court may consider this if the excluded person did try to bring a claim against your estate. The letter is sometimes called an ‘exclusion letter’ in these circumstances. Statement Of Wishes aren’t legally binding, but they help ensure you get your less formal estate wishes across. If you need further advice on how a letter of wishes can support your will, contact us and we will be happy to explain more without obligation. 

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