Leaving possessions to loved ones in your Will – How does it work?
Liz Woodward – Wills & Probate Executive
There are many things you need to consider when making your Will and one of those is deciding who you would like to pass your treasured possessions to. This could be family heirlooms that have been passed down the generations or perhaps you have collections of jewellery or art for example that you would like to divide between family members or friends.
There are two different ways you can leave these gifts after you have passed away, either by specific gifts in your Will or by a Letter of Wishes that is referred to in your Will but is a separate document.
Although the end result should be the same there is a difference between the two methods.
If you leave a gift in your Will, it is legally binding, your Executors have a legal duty to ensure the gift is given to your beneficiary.
If you leave the gift in a Letter of Wishes, it is an expression of your wish and is not legally binding on your Executors, you are relying on them to carry out your wishes. Of course, if you did not trust your Executors to carry out your wishes you would not have appointed them in the first place so the risk should be relatively small but nonetheless you need to be aware.
Your Letter of Wishes should be signed and dated but it does not need to be witnessed therefore it is completely confidential to you; it can be placed in a sealed envelope to sit with your Will and only opened after you have passed away.
The benefit of leaving a Letter of Wishes is that you can go into much more detail and it can be more personal than a gift left in your Will. For example, you could include a personal message to each beneficiary to explain your reasons for making the gift.
Another benefit is that if you have many items you wish to gift it could overcomplicate the Will if you included them as specific gifts, whereas if you leave them in the Letter of Wishes you can go into much more detail and include as many items as you like.
Probably the best benefit of all to you is that you can amend the Letter of Wishes at any point in the future without having to change your Will. You simply prepare a new Letter of Wishes and ensure that a copy is placed with your Will and the previous Letter of Wishes is removed. You can amend the Letter of Wishes as many times as you want, so if you no longer have the item on the list or you wish to add more gifts, it is easy to do without any cost to you.
If you would like to make, amend or update your will then you can contact our Wills & Probate department here. Alternatively you can call us on 0116 255 1811 and we would be happy to help.