When creating a will, it’s common to include a letter of wishes to provide guidance to the executor(s) on how to distribute assets or handle certain matters. However, unlike a will, a letter of wishes is not legally binding. So, can an executor ignore it? Let’s explore the answer to this question and what it means for you and your estate planning.
What is a letter of wishes?
This is a document that accompanies a will and provides guidance to the executor(s) on how to handle certain matters related to the distribution of assets or other issues. It is not legally binding, but it can be helpful in providing additional information or context to the executor. The letter can cover a wide range of topics, such as funeral arrangements, specific bequests, or instructions on how to distribute assets to beneficiaries.
How does it differ from a will?
A letter of wishes is not the same as a will. A will is a legally binding document that outlines how a person’s assets should be distributed after their death. A letter of wishes, on the other hand, is not legally binding and does not have the same weight as a will. It is simply a document that provides guidance to the executor(s) on how to handle certain matters related to the distribution of assets or other issues. Executors have a legal obligation to follow the instructions in a will, but they are not required to follow the instructions in a letter of wishes.
Can an executor ignore a letter of wishes?
Technically, yes, an executor can ignore a letter of wishes as it is not legally binding. However, it is important to note that a letter of wishes is often written by the testator (the person who wrote the will) to provide guidance and express their wishes for how certain matters should be handled. Ignoring a letter of wishes could potentially lead to family disputes or legal challenges. Executors should carefully consider the contents of a letter of wishes and consult with legal professionals if they are unsure about how to proceed.
What happens if there is a conflict between the will and the letter of wishes?
If there is a conflict between the will and the letter of wishes, the will takes precedence as it is a legally binding document. However, if the letter of wishes provides guidance on matters that are not covered in the will, the executor may choose to follow the instructions in the letter of wishes. It is important for the executor to carefully review both documents and seek legal advice if there is any confusion or conflict.
How can you ensure your wishes are followed after your death?
To ensure that your wishes are followed after your death, it is important to clearly outline them in your will and any accompanying letters of wishes. It is also important to choose an executor(s) who you trust to carry out your wishes and to seek legal advice if there are any complex or unusual requests. Regularly reviewing and updating your will and any accompanying letter can also help to ensure that your wishes are up-to-date and accurately reflected in your estate plan.
How we can help
At Harries Watkins Jones Wills & Probate, we have a team of lawyers that have expertise in wills and estate planning. We would be pleased to guide you through the process of writing your will, understanding Inheritance Tax and associated issues. Contact one our wills and probate experts today!
Neil Harries, Partner
Chartered Accountant and wills & probate practitioner
Cath Brown, Solicitor
Legal expertise in wills & probate.
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