You may also wish to prepare a document to accompany your Will or Trust called a letter of wishes. Ideally you should ensure that this letter existed before you signed your Will or Trust to avoid any confusion; however this is not a legal requirement. The letter will need to be signed and dated by you but does not require witnessing; the document should be kept with but not attached to your Will or Trust.
A standard template for a letter relating to a Will is as follows:
‘I make this letter in reference to my last Will and testament dated the (insert date) and wish, without imposing any legal obligation on you my Executors and Trustees, that you act on it accordingly.’
A standard template for a letter relating to a Will Trust or Trust is as follows:
‘I make this letter in reference to my Trust dated the (insert date) which confers discretionary powers on you and I appreciate that I cannot fetter your discretion or determine the way in which you exercise your powers. In the hope that this may be of help to you in exercising your discretionary powers, but without imposing any binding obligations on you or seeking to prevent you from acting as you think best in light of changing circumstances, I would ask you to have regard to my wishes expressed below.’
Please note that a Letter of Wishes is merely an expression of desire and cannot fetter the Trustees and Executors absolute discretion in any way. The letter should be regarded as being for the purpose of guidance and is not legally binding upon the Trustees or Executors.
It can contain specifics of how you would like your estate to be administered, make sure you provide enough detail so that any assets can be easily identified and accessed. It can also provide details to assist your Executors and Trustees concerning the following:
· Funeral wishes (it may be that you wish specific measures to be in place on the day, this can be obtained from the letter)
· Notification list of people to be informed of your death
· Whereabouts of documents to register your death (birth and marriage certificates, N.I. number, pension document, benefit book, annulment of marriage etc)
· Assets and liabilities schedule and the location of the paperwork contact details, account numbers
· Bank accounts
· Building society accounts
· Saving accounts
· Life assurance/insurance policies (car/life/content/house)
· Motor vehicle documents
· Hire/credit/rental agreements
· Property title deeds
· Income tax details
· Credit/debit cards
· Mortgage details
· Amounts and dates of gifts not exempt from IT, identity and address of beneficiaries
· Information to help your Executors identify specific items you are gifting e.g. gifts of a sentimental value with photos or descriptions of the items, you may also wish to leave a personal message for the recipient
· The letter is commonly used to give some guidance to Executors and Trustees on how they should manage any Trusts created, although the letter cannot restrict the Trustees discretion. This can include details on income and capital distribution, any special requirements concerning a Trust, whether professionals should be employed to help deal with an estate or the type of investments that should be made
Examples of the wording of clauses held within a letter of wishes are as follows:
· My first priority is that my wife is adequately provided for. Therefore it is my wish that during the lifetime of my wife the trust fund should be used to maintain her in whatever way deemed necessary. Subject to this wish the trust fund should be used to support the education and maintenance of my children and to help them with their housing needs. After the death of my wife I would like you to consider distributing the trust fund to my children in equal shares.
· With regards to the distribution of the Trust fund and my children I would only wish you to adopt a policy of inequality between them if there were substantial differences in their financial circumstances, some medical issue which required substantial funds, or some other exceptional matter.
· I would ask you as far as possible to avoid investment in companies in the armaments or tobacco industries.
You should make at least two copies of this letter. One should be kept with your original Will or Trust and the other with the duplicate copy of it. It is also strongly advisable that an Executor or Trustee should have a copy or know where a copy is to be found. Remember to keep the copies in a separate place away from the originals in case of fire, flood or other such events.