Introduction

A letter of wishes (sometimes called a memorandum of wishes) is often prepared in conjunction with the preparation of an estate plan.  The letter of wishes is not a legally binding document but is a document that is intended to provide you with the ability to give guidance to your executor or trustee of your estate.

What matters should I address in a letter of wishes?

The letter of wishes can deal with many issues that you do not wish to place in your will including:

  • Funeral arrangements;
  • Wishes regarding burial or disposal of ashes;
  • Directions about the control of non-estate assets (i.e. control of family trusts, self managed superannuation funds, companies and jointly owned assets);
  • Contact details for your trusted advisors (i.e. your accountant, solicitor, financial advisor, real estate agent);
  • Instructions to your guardians about care arrangements for infant children (i.e. education, if children are to be relocated to live with family members and religious instruction);
  • How you would like your trustees to apply any part of the beneficiaries inheritance during their infancy;
  • How you would like beneficiaries to apply any part of their inheritance once they attain the specified age to take their benefit (i.e. directions to use part of the estate as a deposit towards the purchase of a home or overseas travel to broaden the mind).

What else do I need to know?

The letter of wishes is a private document and does not form part of your will. The letter of wishes is often addressed to your executor and trustee of your estate on a confidential basis and beneficiaries are not entitled to obtain a copy of it.  

The letter of wishes should not seek to dispose of any part of your estate. The object of the letter is to provide your executors and trustees with information about your intentions and reasoning behind the creation of your estate plan.

Preparation of a letter of wishes is not mandatory and does not oblige your executors and trustees to follow the guidance offered by it.   

Conclusion

The creation of a letter of wishes as part of an estate plan may provide useful guidance to executors, trustees and guardians expressed outside the terms of the will and may be a useful addition to the overall estate plan.