When is a letter of wishes important?

Letters of wishes or side letters can be placed with a Will and although they are not legally binding, they are used as a way of providing guidance to the Executors and Trustees dealing with the estate, and also to the guardians of minor children.

The letter can provide details regarding extended funeral wishes, the use and disposal of assets for the benefit of minor children or other beneficiaries, details as to how the Testator foresees their children’s education, an explanation as to why particular guardians have been nominated or list personal chattels which the Testator wants to pass to individuals. A letter can be prepared when signing a Will or at any time following its execution and can therefore be updated if circumstances change.

Side letters can also be used to provide reasons for acting in a particular way, or not including an individual in a Will. Under current legislation, a qualifying individual who feels that they should have provision from an estate, or feels that they should be entitled to further provision to what has been made, can make a claim to the Court. If this happens, a side letter from the Testator would act as evidence of his/her intentions at the time of making the Will to explain why they have acted as they have. This would be taken into consideration by the Court when determining whether the individual making the claim is entitled to provision, or additional provision, from the estate. A side letter of this kind cannot prevent a claim being made, but would be of assistance to the Court when determining the outcome of such a claim.

In addition to leaving a side letter with your Will, it is advisable, especially where professional Executors are appointed, to place an asset log with your Will to assist the Executors in making their enquiries into the estate. The document would need to be updated regularly to ensure that it is of assistance.

If you have any queries about this article, please contact the Private Client Team at our South Street Office on 01243 790532.