If you’re a parent or a soon-to-be parent, it’s a good idea to write a Will so your minor children are looked after in case the unthinkable happens. You could also consider writing a “Letter of Wishes” to store alongside your Will. This is a legal document that will allow you to have a voice in how your children are raised, in case the aforementioned unthinkable does occur. It pays to be prepared.
A Letter of Wishes helps your nominated guardian know how you would’ve liked to have brought up your child or children – so they can do it (almost) the same way you would. Although a Letter of Wishes isn't binding, if you’re a parent or a soon-to-be parent, this is often the best way to make your wishes known.
To help you get started, here are the top 8 things to consider when leaving instructions for your nominated guardian:
1. Living situation
This is exactly what it sounds like! Consider where you would like your child to be brought up in the context of where the guardians you nominate live. If you own your own home, would you ask your nominated guardians to move into it so that your children don't need to leave their home? Or, would a fresh start for your children in your nominated guardian's home be your preference?
What school/s would you like your children to attend? What extracurricular activities would you like them to participate in? What would you like your nominated guardians to consider if your children wished to change schools?
Would you like to recommend any hobbies that you think your child should try? This could be sports, music, arts, or anything else. (Of course, these are just recommendations, so they don’t have to be followed).
4. Other guardian-like individuals
Aside from your nominated guardian, is there anyone else you’d like to be involved in your child’s upbringing? You can also specify to what degree you would like them to be a part of your child’s life.
5. Traditions to continue
Do you have any family, religious or spiritual traditions that you’d like your children to celebrate or commemorate? How would you like them to do this? If your nominated guardians have a different faith, consider providing additional resources or more detailed instructions. You might also name some people from whom advice can be sought.
6. Health matters
Should your children’s guardian be aware of any health issues or health-related matters? This might be insurance details, immunisation history, allergies, existing conditions, screenings, and so on.
Consider if you would like your children to be able to travel by themselves and at what age, as well as any places you might wish your children to travel to. You may have family residing overseas who you’d like them to meet or spiritual places you’d like them to visit when they reach a certain age.
Your nominated guardian will be able to seek the release of funds from your child's inheritance for this purpose.
8. Jobs and independence
Do you have a preference for what age your child should seek part-time employment? Would you like your children to have access to pocket money? What support would you like to give them?
It’s important to note that a Letter of Wishes is more of a guideline, but is generally followed in practice. While a nominated guardian is likely to follow these wishes, it is not always possible for myriad reasons (i.e financial strain, or perhaps relocating to another suburb no longer qualifies a child to attend a certain school, etc).
Including a Letter of Wishes as a part of your Will, however, allows you to leave set instructions for how you would like your child to be raised, to help your nominated guardian bring them up in the way that you have laid out in writing. Just make sure that the language you use in it aligns clearly with the instructions in your Will, so there are no question marks left flying in the air.
Looking for some sound advice on whether to include a Letter of Wishes in your Will? We’ll simplify the process and talk you through your options.
Disclaimer: The content of this blog is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. This blog should not be relied upon as legal, financial, accounting or tax advice.