A Statement of Wishes, also known as a Letter or Memorandum of Wishes, can be a very valuable addition to estate planning and communicating with loved ones after death.

A Statement of Wishes is not legally binding, rather it is an informal and private document that accompanies your Will. The Statement of Wishes can be updated as you need, without having to change your Will.

A Statement of Wishes can help guide and assist your executors when the time comes to administer your estate and can be very beneficial. It may further explain issues that are not be addressed in your Will, including:

  • Guiding principles: communicating principles to assist the executor in their decision making
  • Reasons for decisions: why you have decided to leave your assets in your Will in a certain way (including why a beneficiary may be left out)
  • Minor children: how you would like your children's inheritance is to be managed and applied during their childhood.
  • Care of young children: instructions to your guardians about caring for children while they are under the age of 18, such as education, religion, values.
  • Sentimental / personal items: instructions on the distribution of your jewellery, family heirlooms and other personal effects
  • Disposal of body: particular requests in relation to your funeral or burial arrangements

A Statement of Wishes can also be very beneficial to provide directions about assets that you control during your lifetime, but do not automatically form part of your estate (non-estate assets). These may include family trusts, private companies and self-managed superannuation. Control of assets may be entrusted to your executor to control after your death, and your wishes can be used to guide their decision making. For example:

  • your intentions for family trust distributions of income / capital (e.g. all children are to receive an equal distribution, or not), investment strategy and certain assets are to be dealt with in a specified way.
  • you can provide key contact information required for a trading company, which can be very useful to ensure smooth continuation of business operations key to your business retaining value.

The Statement of Wishes is not legally binding but can provide useful guidance to your executor or trustee in the exercise of power. It is provided on a confidential basis and does not need to be shared with beneficiaries unless you agree for it to be so.

The information that you include in your Statement of Wishes can be as limited or as broad as you wish. Having an experienced lawyer assist in preparing the Statement of Wishes is essential to ensure it is clear and concise, and to ensure it does not conflict with your Will.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.