Writing a Will can be tricky, but trying to understand a loved one’s Will and the reasons for their decisions after their death can be agonising and distressing. A simple letter of wishes can avoid this emotional confusion.
A letter of wishes is not a legally binding document. It is a personal and private document that is designed to sit alongside your Will (which may become a public document after your death) to provide your Executors and Trustees with a guide to help ensure that your personal wishes are carried out. You can write a letter of wishes at any time and can update it as often as you like. The idea is that it sets out your thought process so your wishes can be better understood.
Your letter of wishes can be as short or as long as you like and there are no rules about what must be included in your letter, although it is a good idea to include a list of your assets alongside their location in your letter of wishes, as this will help Executors to administer your estate.
When you pass away there might be certain people that you want to be notified of your death or maybe even, people who you do not want to be notified. This can be dealt with in the letter of wishes.
You can go into more detail about your funeral wishes and arrangements. Some people find it very tough to talk about their own death and funeral arrangements with their family and friends. It is very common that a letter of wishes is where people explain what they want to happen at their funeral. For example, someone might specify in their letter of wishes that they want everybody attending the funeral to wear a certain colour or item of clothing.
A letter of wishes can be written to explain certain clauses and provisions in your Will. If you have excluded somebody from your Will, there is a possibility that your family could be left feeling hurt and frustrated without knowing the reasons for your decisions. If it was a controversial decision that could be challenged, then it is recommended that you explain this in a letter of wishes. If you do not mention someone in your Will intentionally and no explanation is provided, it is possible that this could be construed as an oversight. However, if you deal with this and name them in your letter of wishes and provide reasons for the exclusion, you can avoid any misunderstanding.
It is not always possible to communicate important messages to friends, family and loved ones. A letter of wishes gives you a chance to pass on your final thoughts and wishes, or even words of advice to those you leave behind. A letter of wishes is not essential, but it might be a good idea to prepare one to accompany your Will to evade any misinterpretation.
N.B. It is extremely advisable that your letter of wishes is carefully worded. Your letter of wishes cannot conflict your Will, or even cause your Will to appear ambiguous. If you would like to make any changes or alterations to your Will, then a letter of wishes is not the place to do so. If you require any amendments to your Will, please do not hesitate to contact us. We can assist you and establish whether you require a new Will or a Codicil to be prepared – have a quick read of our blog ‘Codicil or New Will’ for information on this: https://www.familylawassociates.co.uk/news/codicil-or-new-will/