Letter of wishes

A letter of wishes is not part of your will, but it gives the executors of your will and others guidance on how you want them to use the powers you have given them.

A letter of wishes is not legally binding

The letter is not legally binding and can therefore be changed with no formalities as your wishes or circumstances themselves change.

Unlike a will, it is not a public document, so the contents are more private.

Helping your next of kin

A letter of wishes will be of enormous help both to your executors and to others dealing with the inevitable red tape and other formalities, as well as other connected matters such as your funeral.

Purposes of a letter of wishes

Letters of wishes can be used for almost any purpose; here we set out some of the commonest.

1. A letter of wishes is particularly useful to the executors and next of kin in the time before your will has been granted probate, for example when arranging the funeral.

2. You can set out what you would like in as much or as little detail as you think right, from church or chapel, burial or cremation – or, these days, field or forest – to Bach or the Beatles.

3. Some people use the letter to state who is – or indeed sometimes is not – to be informed of their death. The section of Plan Ahead called ‘Storing your Wishes’ can help take you through this area in detail.

4. Such a letter may be used to explain some of the provisions you have made in your will. An explanation that so-and-so has been left out because you have already taken some other action, or that such-and-such a beneficiary is from a part of your life not familiar to many could also help prevent disharmony or bitterness.

5. Another very common – and very helpful – purpose is the allocation of your personal possessions, such as pictures, photographs, other family records, jewellery or other heirlooms. If you don’t make such arrangements, there is a risk, particularly if you leave no spouse or civil partner, of items you meant to go to someone in particular being sold or, worse, of an unseemly squabble or even legal action, causing permanent harm to your family as well as needless expense.

Things of very great monetary value should be in your will, but a letter of wishes is much the best for less potentially contentious items, so that, as before, your letter can be updated without formality if, say, a particular object is given away – or gets broken!

6. An especially vital purpose is that of laying down guidelines for any guardians you have appointed for your children. These could include wishes you have regarding education or religion, for example. Again, these can be updated as your children grow up or things change in other ways.

7. There are also technical uses, for example in the areas of taxation and trusts, in respect of which we strongly suggest you take professional advice.

Useful advice

You should start to draft a letter of wishes as you start the process of making a will.

Please note

The information which we provide through Lasting Post is in outline for information or educational purposes only. The information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a solicitor, accountant or other professional adviser. We cannot guarantee that information provided by Lasting Post will meet your individual needs, as this will very much depend on your individual circumstances. You should therefore use the information only as a starting point for your enquiries.