It is often a sense of duty that drives us to make a Will. We feel it is our own responsibility to put our personal affairs in order. For some, it is to avoid this burden falling on our families. For many, it is to take control of the distribution of our estates, to make sure it is shared among the right people, in the right proportions. For others, it is to minimise the potential for conflict after we are gone.
Those that fall into the latter category invariably find trying to ‘do the right thing’ by their families and friends an exhausting, emotional experience. Complex family structures, estranged relationships, and strong personalities can make achieving (and being seen to achieve) ‘fairness’ very difficult. And even then, despite our best intentions, conflicts may still arise.
The importance of taking good advice from a suitably qualified solicitor cannot be overstated. It is upon this advice that you will base your decisions on how your estate should be distributed, which will ultimately underpin the structure of your Will. For the Will itself, this must be clearly written, technically competent, and above all, capable on implementing your instructions effectively. However, regardless of how well drafted your Will is, it is a legal document and, as such, may not by itself convey the level of thought that you put into preparing it.
A Letter of Wishes can be used to complement your Will, and help put in context what may otherwise be perceived as a rather austere document. Your Letter will generally be informal in style, and you might even choose to write this yourself. It can be used for a number of different purposes, for example, to explain why you have left someone a specific sum of money, or perhaps why one of your children is to receive a greater share of your estate than another.
Sometimes, however, your Letter will state simply that your intention is to achieve overall fairness, and that you hope your beneficiaries will recognise this, and respect your final wishes.