If you’d like to clarify anything in your will, you might choose to write a letter of wishes. On this page, we explain what a letter of wishes is, and how to write a letter of wishes to accompany a will.


What is a letter of wishes?

A letter of wishes is a document that accompanies your will. It can explain your will or make it clear that you’d like your assets to be dealt with in a particular way.

It’s not the same as a will because it’s not a legally binding document. It’s just a way to make your wishes clear, so your executors and your loved ones can understand and respect your intentions.

Your letter of wishes and your will shouldn’t contradict each other. If they do, though, your will takes precedence as a legally binding document, so you can’t use a letter of wishes to overrule aspects of your will.

Unlike a will, a letter of wishes doesn’t become a public document once probate is granted; it’s for the benefit of your executors, your trustees, your family members or anyone you address it to. You can write multiple letters of wishes for different people if you’d like.

A letter of wishes can do any or all of the following:

  • Give the contact details of people you’d like to have notified of your death.
  • Explain why you’ve made particular decisions in your will, particularly if you expect someone to be surprised or upset by the will.
  • Explain where your assets may be found.
  • Specify particular items you’d like to give to particular people. For example, your will may say that your possessions should be divided equally amongst your children, but you may want your paintings to be inherited by a particular child; if so, you can specify this in your letter of wishes. You can include photographs or descriptions to make the items easier to identify.
  • Specify how you’d like trusts to be managed by the trustees.
  • Explain how you’d like bequests to be used, or ways you’d prefer them not to be used. This can be useful if, for example, you’re donating to charity and you’d like to request that your donation only be used for certain purposes.
  • Explain how you’d like children to be raised or looked after.
  • Explain your wishes for your funeral, or what you’d like to have done with your remains after your death. However, you should also discuss these wishes with your loved ones, as there’s no guarantee that your letter of wishes will be read before the funeral.

If there’s confusion or disagreement over your intent in your will, a letter of wishes can help to clear things up.


Is a letter of wishes legally binding?

No. Unlike a will, a letter of wishes is not legally binding. For this reason, there’s no need to worry about contesting a letter of wishes if it’s not possible to carry out the requests it makes.


How to write a letter of wishes for a will

  • Remember that your letter of wishes is not binding and cannot revoke aspects of your existing will. If it’s essential that things be carried out as you specify, or if your wishes are incompatible with your current will, you may decide to change your will
  • You can write a letter of wishes yourself, rather than relying on a solicitor, but you can speak to a solicitor if you’re not confident or if you’d like someone to check your letter of wishes.
  • You don’t need to use legal language. Write in clear, plain English.
  • Avoid ambiguity or hedging. If you’d like your assets to be used in a particular way, make it clear. For example, ‘I would like [name] to receive £20,000 from this trust when she reaches the age of 18’ is clearer than ‘When she reaches the age of 18, [name] could receive £20,000 from this trust’.
  • If you’d like to specify the distribution of a lot of items, you can explain that you’d like the following items to go to the following beneficiaries, and then make a clear list.
  • Sign and date your letter of wishes.
  • Do not have your letter of wishes witnessed. This is unnecessary, and, worse, it could lead your letter of wishes to be viewed as a will, causing confusion and potentially invalidating your existing will.


How to store your letter of wishes

Keep your letter of wishes in the same place as your will, and make sure your executors will know where to find them after your death.

Do not staple or paperclip the letter of wishes (or any other document) to the will. Staples, paperclips and the marks left by their removal can raise the question of whether other documents were at some point attached to the will and are now missing, potentially causing problems or even invalidating the will.



Print this guide