What is a letter of wishes?
A Letter of Wishes (sometimes called a Memorandum of Wishes), is intended to provide general guidance to the executor or trustee of a person’s estate following their death. The letter of wishes is not a legally binding document, however, it is considered to have “moral sway.” A letter of wishes is unique and a very personal document drafted to a particular person’s situation and can deal with a range of issues, including:
- The reasons behind your decision to minimise a gift to a beneficiary under a Will, or exclude a particular person from being a beneficiary under their Will. This is important if somebody was to challenge your Will in the Supreme Court. It shows to the Court that the person making the Will has considered that person as a beneficiary, however, for the reasons detailed in the letter of wishes, the deceased has chosen to either limit the bequest (gift) to such person or to exclude the person entirely as a beneficiary under their Will. A carefully considered and drafted letter of wishes may assist in upholding the Will maker’s intention in the case of a challenge being made to the Will and as an alternative, may persuade such person from challenging the estate once they are shown the letter of wishes;
- Any wishes or directions to the Will maker’s Guardian about care arrangements for infant children (e.g. education, if children are to be relocated to live with family members and religious instruction);
- How you would like your trustees to apply any part of the beneficiaries inheritance during their infancy;
- How you would like beneficiaries to apply any part of their inheritance once they attain the specified age to take their benefit (ie directions to use part of the estate as a deposit towards the purchase of a home or education or for overseas travel to broaden the mind);
- Contact details for your trusted advisors (including your accountant, solicitor, financial adviser) or family friends/acquaintances from whom assistance should be sought in relation to financial planning, accounting services, legal advice, insurance brokerage, stockbroking, religious guidance or other matters;
- Personal assets, particularly those with emotional value such as jewellery, items of collection, other personal effects or family heirlooms (unless this is specified directly in your Will);
- The location of important documents such as deeds, title records and financial information;
- Wishes in relation to assets which you may have effectively controlled during your lifetime, however, do not form part of your estate, such as assets in family trusts, superannuation funds or offshore entities;
- Instructions in relation to your digital assets and their access, handling, distribution and disposition; and
- Any other matters which you would like your executors or trustees to take into account.
If you would like assistance in drafting your Will, including the preparation of a Letter of Wishes, contact us to speak with one of our experienced Wills and Estates team at Rockliff Snelgrove Lawyers in Sydney.