Nurturing your legacy: creating a letter of wishes

When it comes to estate planning and passing on our wishes to loved ones, a letter of wishes stands as a powerful tool, providing guidance, clarity, and comfort. While your Will outlines the distribution of assets, a letter of wishes delves deeper into the emotional and personal aspects allowing you to leave behind a legacy that extends beyond material possessions.

In this blog we explore why you might need a letter of wishes and the positive impact it can have on your legacy.

Understanding the purpose

A letter of wishes is not a legally binding document, but rather an accompanying letter to your Will or Trust. Its purpose is to express your intentions, values, and desires to those who will be responsible for carrying out your wishes. This letter provides valuable insights and instructions, guiding your loved ones in making decisions that align with your beliefs and values.

A Will becomes a public document if a grant of representation is obtained, however a letter of wishes remains confidential to the executors, trustees or family members. It therefore tends to contain more detail of about your family and affairs.

What to include

While the contents of a letter of wishes are highly personal and will vary from person to person there are some specific items you might want to consider, including:

1. Expressions of Love and Gratitude: Begin your letter by expressing your love and gratitude to your family, friends, and other individuals who have played a significant role in your life. Acknowledge their importance and the impact they have had on shaping who you are. In our experience these thoughts are a great comfort to grieving families.

2. Distribution of Sentimental Items: Address specific sentimental items such as family heirlooms, jewellery, artwork, or personal belongings that hold special meaning to you. Clearly state your intentions regarding their distribution, keeping in mind the emotional attachment associated with these items.

3. Charitable Donations: If you have philanthropic interests, express your desires regarding charitable donations. Identify the causes or organizations that are close to your heart and explain your reasons for supporting them. Consider providing guidance on the amount or percentage of your estate that you would like to allocate to charitable endeavours.

4. Funeral and Burial Instructions: Share your preferences regarding funeral arrangements, burial, or cremation. Mention any religious or cultural customs you would like to be observed. For example, you may wish to have a humanist service or a woodland burial or indeed no service at all. Providing clear instructions will alleviate the burden on your loved ones during a difficult time.

5. Guardianship for Dependents: If you have minor children or dependents, discuss your wishes regarding their care and guardianship. Consider the values and qualities you would like their caregivers to possess and outline any specific instructions or preferences you have for their upbringing and education.

6. Financial and Investment Advice: Share any financial or investment advice you have accumulated over the years. Offer guidance on managing inheritances, investments, or family businesses. Share your thoughts on wealth preservation, responsible spending, or charitable endeavours.

7. Personal Messages and Life Lessons: Take the opportunity to share personal messages, life lessons, and values that are important to you. Reflect on the experiences that have shaped your life and offer words of wisdom or encouragement to your loved ones. Consider sharing stories or anecdotes that convey your principles and beliefs.

8. Open Dialogue and Flexibility: Encourage open communication and flexibility in your letter. Acknowledge that circumstances may change over time and give your loved ones the freedom to adapt your guidance as needed. Emphasize the importance of open dialogue and decision-making that aligns with the evolving needs of the family.

9. Explanations about your DecisionsSome family members may be disappointed that you have not included them in your Will or are not passing on a greater share of your assets and might wish to contest the decision. A letter of wishes gives you the opportunity to explain why you have made a potentially controversial decision.

Remember this is not an exhaustive list and you should tailor your letter to reflect your unique circumstances and values.

When to write you Letter of Wishes

You can write a letter of wishes at any time, but it is ideal to do it at the same time as writing your Will, that way you shouldn't forget, duplicate or contradict anything in your Will. Remember, the letter must 'support' the clear instructions in your Will.

It's important to keep the letter and Will together at all times and writing them at the same time is an easy way to ensure this. You should also review the letter and Will regularly - we recommend every two years- to ensure you account for any changes in your personal circumstances or the law. Details about the upbringing of your children may need more regular reviews as they grow up.

Where to turn for advice

A letter of wishes does not need to be written by a solicitor or Will Writer, in fact it is much better to write it in your own words. However, it is understandable that you would have questions about what should be included in both your Will and the letter. Savigny Will Writers are happy to help and advise so that all of your wishes and instructions will be clear to your loved ones.

We take the time to understand all your needs with a caring, friendly and compassionate service that helps you nurture your legacy. For more information, please contact us using the details below.

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