One of the things that people often want to know about is whether or not they need a Statement of Wishes (also known as a Letter of Wishes) in addition to having a Will. It’s a concern because people want to ensure that their estate is looked after in the best possible way, and everyone wants to know that all their bases are covered. A Will and a Statement of Wishes are actually two very different documents, and the only really necessary one is always the Will.
There are reasons to think about including a Statement of Wishes in your plans. We want to talk about why they can be useful and what the key differences are between writing a Will and writing a Statement of Wishes.
A statement of wishes is more of a guide for your executor
If you have some things that you would like to have taken into consideration by your executor outside of the confines of your Will, the Statement of Wishes is where you’d record them. For example, if you have specific requests or preferences around your funeral or memorial, you could include those instructions. Likewise, if you had notes or messages that you wanted to have passed onto anyone in your family or friends, you could include them in a Statement of Wishes.
Additionally, a Statement of Wishes can serve as a guide to your estate for your executor, giving them the lay of the land and walking them through some of the logistics of what you wanted as well as the spirit of what you intended with your Will. While we know that the Will itself is the document that will be followed, the more information you include in a Statement of Wishes, the better your executor will be able to understand your thinking.
What’s the difference between a Will and a Statement of Wishes?
A Will is a legally binding document, and represents the instructions that your executor must carry out. That means that anything absolutely vital needs to be written down in your Will, if you want to make sure that it does happen. Without placing it in your Will, there can be no guarantee that your requests will be honoured.
A Statement of Wishes, as a non-binding document, is more of a non-legal letter asking your executor to do and think about certain things; but they aren’t under any obligation to follow through with it. It might be a good idea to sit down and have a conversation with your executor about your Statement of Wishes prior to writing it, and make sure that they are aware of the contents in advance.
It’s important to remember that a Statement of Wishes does not equal a Will
If you die without a Will in place but you still have a Statement of Wishes, it is not the same thing as having a Will. This is important to remember, because it can lead to difficulties if you confuse the two documents. Get your Will sorted before you think about leaving anything else behind in the form of instructions, because a Will is always going to be the number one requirement for your estate.