HCR Law Events

30 May 2022

I have a will; do I need a letter of wishes too?

What is a letter of wishes?

A letter of wishes allows you to give specific guidance to your executors on how you would like your estate to be dealt with. It is important to bear in mind that a letter of wishes is not legally binding. As such, your executors will not be obligated to follow its contents. Therefore, if you want to ensure that your executors are legally bound to follow a particular wish, you should include it in your will.

It is sensible to ensure that your letter of wishes is stored securely with your will to ensure that it is not lost or separated. This is simply on the basis that if the letter, or a copy, cannot be located, it cannot be followed.

When should I write my letter of wishes?

While they are two separate documents, it is best to prepare a letter of wishes at the same time as your will, to ensure these documents are consistent with one another, and don’t conflict. You can add to or alter your letter of wishes whenever you like.

What should I cover in my letter of wishes?

You might wish to address some of the following in your letter of wishes:

  • Your funeral – for example, if you want your ashes to be scattered in a specific location
  • Distribution of your personal possessions
  • Property matters during the administration of your estate
  • Management of trusts
  • Whether previous gifts to beneficiaries are to be considered when your estate is being distributed
  • Specific guidance for guardians regarding the upbringing of your children.

Can I address excluding someone from my will in my letter of wishes?

It is important to be aware that if you have excluded someone close to you from your will, such as a child or spouse, there is a risk of them making a claim against your estate under the Inheritance Act 1975.

Such a claim would be made on the basis that you have not made reasonable financial provision for that individual. This is something that you would address in a side letter, also stored with your will, rather than within your letter of wishes.

Therefore, while having a letter of wishes is not essential, it is certainly worth considering. It can provide important guidance to your executors, allowing them to deal with your estate in accordance with your wishes.

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About the Author
Helen Barkworth, Associate (TEP)

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