Sometimes they're called Letters of Wishes, Side Letters or Expression of Wishes.
Whatever you call them, they're not legally binding, but can serve a very useful purpose.
A Letter of Wishes is something to consider creating when you have your Will drawn up. Your Will includes matters which you intend to be legally binding, and to review your Will and make changes to it, may incur costs.
It's really important that your wishes are clear when discussing this option
If you include your intentions about specific pieces of jewellery in your Letter of Wishes, you may in the future wish to change the details, or add pieces of jewellery which you acquire over the years. It's really important that your wishes are clear. If you can identify a specific item of jewellery really clearly, naming the colour of the stone, and any engraving, and then the full name of the person you wish to give it to as well as their current address, that is what makes a good Letter of Wishes.
It would not be normal to include gifts of money in a Letter of Wishes. It is more usual to deal with jewellery, antiques or items of sentimental value. Things that may change over the years, either because you give things away in your lifetime and no longer need to include them in the Letter of Wishes, or because you receive more items over the years, and want to give guidance about who should receive these new items.
Your Letter of Wishes is a completely separate document from your Will. It should be kept with your original Will, but never stapled or even paper clipped to your Will.
The beauty of a Letter of Wishes is that it can be changed from time to time without reference to a professional
Some people take the view that if you have particularly valuable items, such as original artwork, you may not wish to include these as specific legacies in your Will, as it alerts the Revenue of your valuable items, which may be taxable. In theory, the value of these items must be declared, whether they are included in your Will or not, but the specifying of them in your Will, makes them clear for all to see, assuming that a Grant of Probate is required.
The beauty of a Letter of Wishes is that it can be changed from time to time, by you, without reference to a professional. At JC Independent Wills & Probate, we encourage our clients to provide us with their updated Letters of Wishes, as and when they make changes. We are happy to ensure the latest Letter of Wishes is always stored professionally with the original Will, without further charge.
The thing to remember about Letters of Wishes, is that they are not legally binding. If you are happy that the people you are leaving in charge of your estate, your executors, will follow the guidance you provide, then that may be a very flexible and appropriate way for you to deal with some items. If you need your wishes to be legally binding, then include them in your Will.
If you'd like a chat, call Jane at JC Independent Wills & Probate on 01727 840 240.
Details about this and many other issues can be found on the website.