You can find yourself in a situation where you want to express your wishes to those closest to you – but the legal will doesn’t feel like the right place. This can happen if you want to discuss deeply personal matters such as family relationships. Or possibly financial matters that you don’t want to become a matter of public record in the future.
In these circumstances you can make a “letter of wishes”. This letter of wishes can go into as much detail as you want about anything you want. From the state of your financial affairs to estrangement within the family. Your letter of wishes should not be legally binding. It can give guidance to your executors and comfort to your family though.
Be careful that you do not accidentally create a “trust” in your letter of wishes. For example: you make a gift to Person A in your will. However, you tell Person A to do something particular with the money (e.g. give it to someone who is not mentioned on the will). This can lead to unintended financial consequences if not done properly.
If you want to set out the terms of a trust you should seek independent legal advice. You can find a solicitor at www.solicitors.lawsociety.org.uk.
How to make a Letter of Wishes
Writing your letter of wishes is a deeply personal thing. You can write your letter of wishes in the way that is most comfortable to you. Increasingly people are leaving video and audio messages too. Because of this we don’t have a “template” for a letter of wishes. This “how to” guide will walk you through the process of making a letter of wishes.
- Choose your format.
You can make your letter of wishes on a word processor (e.g. using Word or Google Docs) or you can hand write it. If you choose to use an audio or visual format make sure that it is saved where your executors can find it. You should also leave a note with your will with instructions on how to access it.
- Choose a template.
If you use a computer to write your letter there are templates on most programmes. Using a template for a letter can remove a lot of the stress of making sure it looks “right”. If you are hand writing the letter you can copy the format of one of these computer templates if you wish.
- Make sure your message is clear.
If you are setting out factual informaiton such as financial information or timelines make sure these are clear. Bullet points and tables can be more useful than long sentences. When conveying thoughts and feelings make sure that once you’ve written them down read them again. Don’t be afraid to edit or update or even start again if a message doesn’t come across the way you wanted.
- Check again the next day.
It’s amazing what a good night sleep can do. Check the letter the next day and read it with a fresh pair of eyes. If something is unclear or ambiguous edit the letter. Your letter of wishes should bring clarity not sew confusion.
- Store the letter with the will.
Once you’ve finished the letter print, date and sign it then put it with the will. Do NOT attach the letter to the will in any way. Don’t staple, don’t glue, don’t paperclip and don’t attach it in any other way to the will. Simply leave it in the same place so that it will be found at the same time as the will.
As mentioned above – a letter of wishes should be used to clarify your thinking and/ or provide helpful guidance to the executors. Do NOT use it to create any further gifts. Do NOT use it to do anything which you want to be legally binding. This could end up creating a trust that could lead to confusion, expense or even a dispute. If you are in any doubt please contact a solicitor.
If you want to start making your will then go here to make an online will.