The Letter of Wishes
Imagine you got an invitation to a party, and that the invitation included a map to the venue. Your host’d hardly care if you followed the route map, if you attended the bacchanal.
With that image in mind, we should now look at the statement or letter of wishes.
We do not list specific property in your will, this is deliberate. Some people make gifts of specific items of emotional and sentimental significance, but small financial value. These are usually things like lesser amounts of jewellery, paintings, collections and keepsakes. Such gifts make the will untidy, estate administration could be messy, time consuming and expensive.
You can make such gifts without complicating your will.
Some describe the statement of wishes, as a ‘letter to the executors’.
It’s saying, ‘Dear Executors, Please, if it’s OK, if it’s not too much trouble, if you could see a way clear, would you be darlings and give my collection of tea-towels to my friend Jean?’
A letter of wishes, which really is a letter to your executors doesn’t have the force of law behind it, and the executors are not bound to honour it, but…
Contrast the letter of wishes with the will. The will is a legal document the provisions of which the executors must follow on pain of severe consequences. The executors must follow the will unless there is a court order or a deed of family arrangement – also known as a deed of a variation, this lists any changes to who benefits from your estate and must be agreed by the affected beneficiaries.
There is a major use for the statement of wishes. Remember, in another post, we said the will was not a device for ‘getting even’ or keeping score. No, don’t fight in a pub car park. If you must have the final word, don’t use the will, do it in the statement of wishes.
Some testators use a statement of wishes for directing what should happen to their pets.
Your Letter of Wishes & Your Relative Youth
You’re of such youth that there’s plenty of time for people and things to come in to and go out of your life. You don’t want to have to rewrite your will because some artefact or other worth a few hundred pounds got lost, stolen or damaged, or was sold, given away or exchanged. Human relationships are fluid – people can fall out, die, or become unable to use or appreciate the item in question.
You can alter your statement of wishes at will because it is a flexible document.
It does not require witnesses; you can alter it as many times as necessary. Because it does not bind the executors, any conflicts with the will, which is the main document can relatively easily be made good.
It keeps the will tidy, and it would make the job of the executors easier. Of course it preferable to appoint professional executors, but the executors, be they lay-executors or professionals, you’ve a duty to make their job easier.
Imagine you got an invitation to a party, and that the invitation included a map to the venue, your host’d hardly care if you followed the map, as long as you attended the festivities.
So, think of your will as the invitation and the letter of wishes as the route map to the venue.
You’re invited to my party, I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time, and no, you don’t need to bring me a gift, your presence is my present.