A Letter of Wishes, sometimes called a Memorandum of Wishes, is a confidential document addressed to your executors and trustees that accompanies your Will. It is not legally binding; instead, it guides your executors and trustees to ensure your personal wishes are carried out.
Letters of Wishes should be stored with the Will to which they relate. Separate Letters can each address different topics allowing particularly confidential matters to be kept in isolation.
Letters of Wishes enable the testator to change the guidance they leave without having to observe any formalities as to execution and also without having to change the Will itself. Letters of Wishes do not become public documents in the way that Wills do when admitted to probate.
You must take care that a Letter of Wishes does not contain anything that could conflict with the Will, in order to minimise confusion or disputes.
Letters of Wishes should be written in plain English, signed and dated, but not formally witnessed to avoid any claim that they amount to a Will or codicil which might “overwrite” the Will itself.
As a Letter of Wishes is not a legally binding document, there is a risk that your wishes may not be carried out exactly as you intended, as there is no legal obligation upon the trustees to do so. However, particularly where professionals have been appointed, it is a brave trustee who departs from the Letter of Wishes as it represents the testator’s best guess as to how to advance the interests of the beneficiaries concerned.
Nevertheless, a Letter of Wishes should not be used to direct the disposal of items of substantial value or anything where the testator is absolutely certain at the time they make their Will of their intentions – gifts of these items should be included in the Will.
Finally, you should treat the original Letter of Wishes with the same respect as the original Will: to be effective it needs to be capable of being found, so consider storing it securely with your Will. However, you should NEVER paperclip anything to an original Will – this might impede the extraction of a Grant of Representation as the Probate Registry might suspect that something else was attached to the Will, such as a codicil, whose existence might call into question the validity of the Will itself.