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Murray Beith Murray is a leading Scottish private client law firm.

For over 170 years we have specialised in meeting the legal, financial and administrative needs of individuals and families, family trusts, charities and private companies.

Call us today on 0131 225 1200
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4 minutes reading time (733 words)

Letters of Wishes: Explained

Adam SwayneIf you are concerned about how your assets may be distributed after you pass away, you may wish to consider preparing a Letter of Wishes. A Letter of Wishes plays a valuable role when you have left assets in trust for your loved ones and can help trustees to understand how you would like the trust to be managed. While trust deeds and Wills tend to be formal in nature, a Letter of Wishes is an opportunity to express more personal feelings and preferences. In this article, we look at what a Letter of Wishes is, when you may wish to use one, and what you may like to include. 

What is a Letter of Wishes? 

A Letter of Wishes is a separate document which is typically stored alongside your Will. It is stored with your Will so that it can be shared with your loved ones in the event of your death. A Letter of Wishes will not be binding on your Executors or Trustees and so can be revised or revoked by you at any time.

What should be included in a Letter of Wishes? 

The content of a Letter of Wishes can vary greatly. There is no structure or template to follow - it is simply, as the name implies, a letter which allows you to communicate whatever you wish with your loved ones or Executors.  However, many people typically include: 

Personal Statements of Affection 

While most people hope to be able to say their final goodbyes to their loved ones in person, it is impossible to predict what is around the corner. Some people choose to include final thoughts, wisdom and encouragement for loved ones in their Letter of Wishes. 

Guardianship details 

If you have specific wishes about who should care for your children after you pass away, you can include these details in a Letter of Wishes. The actual appointment of a guardian will be included in your Will, but you may have guidance for the guardian about how they should care for your child, such as religion, personal beliefs or education. 

Exclusion of a beneficiary 

If there is a person who may be expecting to inherit something from your estate, but you want to exclude them, you may wish to include the reasoning behind your decision in your Letter of Wishes. Your Will sets out who you wish to inherit from your estate but will typically not include the names of those you don’t. A Letter of Wishes can be a useful means of ensuring your assets are distributed how you would have wished. 

How you wish for personal belongings to be distributed

When you make your Will, it is possible to include details that you wish for your personal belongings to be distributed in line with any letter included alongside your Will. Using a Letter of Wishes is a more flexible way of dealing with personal belongings as these may change often over time. It is, however, important to note that the content of a Letter of Wishes is advisory and not legally binding and so if you know that you want to bequeath certain items to particular individuals then these bequests should be included as a specific legacy in your Will.

Guidance to Trustees

If you leave the whole or part of your estate to a Trust, you can use your Letter of Wishes as a way of providing some guidance to the Trustees as to how you wish for them to exercise their powers and manage the Trust funds. For example, you may wish to provide guidance in relation to when income or capital is to be distributed to the beneficiaries, who the primary beneficiary or beneficiaries should be, or if funds should be managed to pay for education or maintenance costs. 

Estate Planning Solicitors, Edinburgh

Adam Swayne is a Senior Solicitor within our Asset Protection Group and specialises in estate planning. If this article has raised any questions or you would like to discuss any issues covered here, then please complete our contact form, or call us on 0131 225 1200 to speak to one of our specialist estate planning lawyers.

Murray Beith Murray was established in 1849 as advisors for generations of clients, committed to our values of integrity, expertise and trust. This aim and these values continue to this day, as does our commitment to be here when you need us.

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