A solicitor gives legal advice to a smiling young couple

Make a wish – the importance of letters of wishes

Have you made a Will? If so you have taken the first and most important step in making sure your affairs are in order after your death. If you have children aged under eighteen then you may have appointed guardians for them in your Will or set up a trust for their benefit. In either case you should ensure that your wishes about the upbringing of your children or how the trust benefits them are set out in writing.

No-one finds it easy to decide on the identity of guardians for their children but if you record in writing your wishes about how you would like your children brought up this might make the process a little easier. The letter of wishes can cover subjects such as education, leisure interests, friendships, religion and anything else which you feel reflects the way that you would like your children raised. You might, for example, have strong views on pocket money and believe, like the Beckhams, that however much funding is available you would like your teenage child to earn some of their own money. You might want your child to attend a particular school or to learn to play a musical instrument.

As far as any ongoing trusts are concerned, letters of wishes can also be used to set out how you would like the trustees to administer the trust. These letters are not legally binding, and cannot prevent the trustees in the case of a discretionary trust exercising their discretion in a different way, but they have strong moral force. Your letter concerning upbringing may say, for example, that you would like you child encouraged to play sports. The letter about the administration of the trust can back up this wish with hard cash and request that the trustees fund lessons and sports equipment – you never know they might be enabling the next Andy Murray or Olympic medalist.

You might have other views on how the trust funds are to be used for your children’s education. Should they be used, for example, to pay university tuition fees and what about further degrees? You might want to follow in the footsteps of a well known member of Dragon’s Den who has said that any of his children following a vocational career should receive extra financial support to make this a viable life choice. You might also want to set out when the trustees should make capital available to your children, to fund a business venture or the deposit on their first home perhaps.

We can help you decide what subjects you should cover in your letters of wishes and suggest appropriate wording for them. The most important thing is that you leave a clear, written record so if anything unexpected were to happen your executors, trustees and your children’s guardians can ensure that they carry on in the way that you would have wanted.