A letter of wishes is not intended to be legally binding but merely to offer guidance. To help avoid any possibility of misinterpretation, the letter will often contain an acknowledgement that its provisions are not binding. Furthermore, it will preferably be signed by the testator/settlor within a few days of the Will or Trust being created and is a separate document, often providing more confidentiality and flexibility as it can be changed as circumstances change over time.
In many cases, a letter of wishes will become the most important practical tool for assisting trustees in making decisions and sometimes managing family affairs for many years to come. It may be used to explain why certain family members have not been included as beneficiaries or why unexpected beneficiaries have been included. Children with special needs are particularly important in this context, and the letter of wishes may lay down guidelines that stretch far into the adult life of that person.
However, it’s extremely important for the testator/settlor and the trustees to regularly review the contents when the opportunity arises and keep it current. Often we think that nothing has really changed since the letter was compiled, but upon re-visiting the document realise that, over time, relationships and circumstances have moved on from what they were.
Have you or your client reviewed your/their circumstances recently? Looking for further guidance? Contact us and we’ll be happy to help.