The importance of writing a will cannot be overstated. If you want to be certain about what happens to your money, home and other assets after you pass on.

However, wills cover a specific set of instructions, which focus on what you own, who you want to benefit from your assets, taking care of any dependents, and who will execute your will.

A will is legally binding if it is considered to be valid, but what of requests and advice that is not or cannot be legally binding, such as how you want your children to be raised or the arrangements for your funeral?

For these cases, a letter of wishes is drafted and placed in secure will storage alongside your will itself.

Unlike a will, it is not legally binding, nor does it need to be notarised or signed in the presence of witnesses.

It also would not become a public document at the probate stage, which allows for more personal or confidential information to be disclosed to family, close friends, trustees and the executor.

This can be as simple as personal well-wishes or affectionate statements to let your loved ones know you care.

A letter of wishes’ actual contents can vary depending on individual circumstances, but they often include the funeral arrangements you would like to have, such as location or type of funeral.

As well as this, whilst a will may document under whose care your children may go, the letter of wishes would elaborate on how they should be brought up, typically with regards to religious upbringing.

It can also be used to elaborate and be more specific about how certain personal effects are distributed, and it is possible to include a clause with the will that asks executors to distribute possessions in accordance with any letter found with the will.

However, if you plan to exclude someone from your will who may expect to be a benefactor, such as a child, spouse or sibling, the letter of wishes can help express the motives for why they were left out and be used as evidence in case of a legal challenge.

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