The Letter of Wishes – A Mighty Little Document That Shouldn’t be Forgotten

August 7, 2023


A Letter of Wishes, also known as an Expression of Wishes, intent or guidance letter is an often-underestimated little document. Although it’s not legally binding, it holds significant power and value in guiding the execution of the estate plan. Here are the reasons why a letter of wishes is so powerful:


Flexibility and Informality: Unlike legal documents like Wills and Trusts, a Letter of Wishes is more informal and flexible. It allows the testator to express their personality and personal thoughts, sentiments, and desires without the strict legal language required in more formal documents.


Dispensing “Life Advice”: A Letter of Wishes is a great opportunity for the client to impart life advice to their heirs, whether it involves humorous or exaggerated wisdom is entirely up to them.


Some people have been known to incorporate funny quotes from their favourite comedians or movies into their letters, intending to make their beneficiaries smile while reading the document.


Privacy and Confidentiality: Unlike the legally binding Will or Trust, which becomes a public record after probate, a Letter of Wishes is typically kept private. This allows the testator to express sensitive matters and spill secrets more freely without nosy old Janet learning all about it.


Justification and Explanation: A Letter of Wishes enables the testator to provide personal instructions on how they wish their assets to be distributed and why. Helping immediately resolve petty squabbles between family members. This can be particularly useful in situations where there might be complex family dynamics or potential disputes


Guidance for Executors and Trustees: It serves as a valuable guide for Executors and Trustees responsible for administering the estate or Trust. It provides insight into the Testator’s intentions, wishes, and considerations, making it easier for them to fulfil their duties effectively.


Ethical and Moral Considerations: A Letter of Wishes allows the Testator to address ethical or moral considerations that may not have a clear answer or might be confusing. This could include charitable intentions, preferences for the upbringing of minor children, or guidance on specific healthcare decisions.


Emotional Support: They can also offer emotional support and comfort to beneficiaries, especially when the Testator is no longer alive. It can convey love, appreciation, and personal messages that provide reassurance and closure.


Some people have shared amusing anecdotes or family jokes in their letters of wishes to bring laughter and fond memories to the minds of their beneficiaries during a difficult time.


A Letter of Wishes is a powerful addition to an estate plan because it enables the testator to express personal thoughts and guidance, address unique family circumstances, and provide valuable insights for the estate’s Executors and Trustees. Its flexibility, personalisation, and ability to address non-legal matters make it a crucial and impactful component of the overall estate planning process.


It’s easy to draft a Letter of Wishes within Arken Professional and it can make a real impact for your client and their families. There is even a specific one for guardians.  Explore this great little feature in a free trial or take a sneak peek at this how to video to learn more.