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It is never too early to write a will and there is no time like the present. We never know what is waiting for us round the corner. With more than 500,000 predicted deaths in the UK looming over our heads with the Covid-19 virus, it is better to be safe than sorry. Your last wishes will benefit your loved ones should anything happen to you. It also helps with the distribution of your estate and finances.
Your Wishes in a Letter.
Along side your last your will and testament you should have a letter of wishes, this is a more indepth and sometime a very private affair meant for specific family members. Although it is not legal and binding unless you include as part of your will. The wish letter should provide your wishes for the people dealing with your estate and/or any trusts that are to be set up after you pass away. The letter should be about specific matters that are private and often sensitive. It informs your executors, trustees and/or family of your estate, your wishes and how you would like them to executed.
A Will should not be confused with a Wish Letter. A Will is a Public Document if the Will goes to Probate, whereby it goes through a judicial process of the court of law that accepts it as a valid Last Testament of the deceased. On the contrary the letter of wishes remains confidential to the executors, trustees or family members and is not a matter for the courts. Therefore is usually contain more specific details of one’s family and affairs.
It is ideal to write the letter in Plain English, and Sign and Date it. This letter does not have to have witnesses. It should just state at the beginning you are of sound mind followed by your wishes.
How should I write a letter of wishes?
The sole purpose of the wish letter is to be a supplement to the will and support the executors of your estate. The Wish letter should not have anything that can contradict your Will. The Wish letter should emphasise how you wish your remains to be disposed of i,e cremated, buried or sent to outer space (yes this is possible, you can even be frozen part or whole including your brain or made into a diamond, whatever you prefer, but that is for another post which I may write about). If you have personal items that specific members of your family should have you should state it in the letter. If say you have left money in a trust fund you may want this family member to hear your wishes privately. This could be something on the lines like the teenager that comes of age and should not squander the money on wild parties but invest the money wisely and should not give it to any other family member.
The advantage of such a letter is that it can be updated it to reflect any changes in your circumstances. It may be that you are monitoring the behaviour of a family member and are undecisive whether to leave a trust fund for that individual if they are not responsible enough. Executors should know your intentions which will help them when exercising their powers.
Examples of Wish Letters and what may be written are as follows:
Who should be informed in the event of your death, or in some cases, who not be notified.
Your funeral wishes whether you want to be made into a sparkly diamond, planted and your ashes buried in the soil with the sapling of oak tree or simply buried or cremated and any specific instructions about the service, such as should everone wear black and should they mourn your death or celebrate the memories they have of you and the life you had. You can be specific like having your ashes buried in woodland or scattered on a favourite beach. You may want specific music and venue to hold your wake.
Your Wishes of how you would like your personal items donated and to whom, such as family heirlooms, ornaments, art, jewellery, furniture, and photographs and stamp collections.
If you are leaving trusts for the beneficiaries you can state specific things they must do in order to fullfill your wishes, this can be that they may have to execute certain tasks before they are entitled to any payments of which they can forfeit their claim to the estate if they do not do as you wish.
If say you are a parent with young children which you have left behind you may want to let the guardians know your wishes on how to bring up your children. Your wishes can include faiths and education.
You should also explain your decisuon why you have excluded anyone from your last will and testament especially so if someone wishes to contest your will in future.
A Wish Letter is Important Because?
It is very important that the executors and/or trustees know how to execute your wishes. The executors and/or trustees need to know your intentions and how you would like them to take care of your finances and assets.
If you have children you are leaving your assets and funds to, it is a necessity to write down your wishes in preparation for when the childen reach the age to claim their trusts and funds.
You may have personal reasons to delay a person’s inheritance for whatever reason and you should write this down clearly so that there are no misunderstandings further down the line.
You should also explain implications of inheritance tax and also the tax benefits for investment purposes.
When is it the right time to write a letter of wishes?
There is no time like the present to wite down your wishes, like I said before tomorrow is not guaranteed. Writing your last will and testament should also coincide in your letter of wishes. You should remember that you need to avoid any misundertandings, keep everything clear and specific and not duplicate or contradict yourself in what you have witten in your Last Will and Testament.
With the instructions of contacting all instituations, organizations, governing bodies and banks and giving all access to your personal accounts including usernames, passwords etc and all contact details. It is very important to keep all the documents in a safe place not easily reachable but secure. If you appoint a solicitor as the executor he/she can keep your documents in a secure place for you. You can even hire safe deposit boxes in banks or buy yourself a safe and keep the key with you at all times. You should update your wish letter and on a regular basis for example every year to be on the safe side and be sure you have updated any changes in your own personal circumstances aswell as your children’s. As your children get older get older you may want them to go to a specific school or college, you may want them to travel and encourage them to do so. Lots of different scenarios and all personal to you.
When writing a letter of wishes do I need to appoint a solicitor?
The answer to this question is no, as this is personal to you.
Writing a Wish Letter enable you to write specific instructions where for example you may not want “Aunty Mable” interfering in your family affairs or your children’s upbring or you may be against certain faiths or organizations that you do not want your children to be involved in.
Your own words should be sufficient although a solicitors experience and expertise in writing Last Wills & Testaments aswell as running and administering trusts can give you the support you may need in cases where delicate issues may arise. If you are unsure you can always run a draft copy by your solicitor so that he she can look through it and advise you and help you ammend anything that may need addressing.
Death is never an easy subject to talk about, yet one needs to be prepared.
It is always good to prepare your estate ready for execution so that if the inevitable should happen, your loved ones can sort out your finances with ease.
If you do not have anyone you can appoint, you can hire an executor, which can be your solicitor.
Listen to this Podcast from a New York Lawyer who explains in Laymans Terms, how to sort out your Last will and Testament.
You need to be a patient and the Lawyer will start talking after the intro which is appoximately aorund 04.28 minutes into the recording, you can fast forward to this point.
Get into the habit of backing up usernames and passwords on a regular basis on paper, also write down which companies need to be notified and make sure to update your account data and their contact details.
Let your loved ones know should anything happen to you, were they can find this information and keep everything stored together in a safe place.
Obviously the law is a different from Country to Country but most of it is common sense and has similarities. Do check the Law for England & Wales. Ask for a no obligation free consultation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Do Remember to go through the checklist below:
Make sure the will of the deceased can be found easily and verified to be legal, go to a solicitors to have it verified.
When preparing your last will and testament have witnesses that can verify the will, your local solicitors office can do this for you.
As the executor get several copies of the death certificate as certain institutions, authorities and organizations will need them for verification. Even trying to shut down social media sites may need this document for authenticity.
Appoint an executor or personal representative (This can be a solicitor)
Make sure an executor or personal representative is reachable ( Sometimes people move away or die, keep in contact with the person).
Notify all Utility Companies.
The executor needs to contact all banks of the deceased and notify all credit card companies. Banks will freeze all assets until the probate process has begun.
Probate bonds are posted
Receive Letters of Administration from the court
Make sure all Assets are located and protected
Assets are appraised
Publish notice to creditors
The decedent’s debts are paid off
Tax returns are prepared and filed
Remaining assets are distributed according to the will
In the case of executing the will make sure all social media accounts are notified and third party subscription sites.
***Sorting out someone else affairs can be very complicated and distressing. It always better to be prepared including finalizing funeral arrangements etc. Do research life insurance to cover funeral costs.
As part of Government over spending more than 20 offices around England and Wales have been shut down. Solicitors around the country are complaining about delays in the probate system since a computer glitch last year. People who have questions should contact the Birmingham Courts and Tribunal Service Centre which will deal with all enquiries.
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