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Letter of Wishes

Written by Melissa Grimshaw

As human beings, we don’t like to think about or discuss our estate plans, as it tends to challenge our sense of mortality.

We are going to live forever right?!

But just in case we don’t we should have some plans in place.

No doubt your adviser has discussed with you in the past the importance of having your Will reviewed regularly, ensuring that you have granted Enduring Powers of Attorney in case you lose capacity to make your own decisions at any stage, and ensuring that you have completed nominations for your Superannuation and Life Insurance policies.

We are not going to explore the above in any detail, but reiterate it is so important that you have a valid Will and ensure that you have a nominated beneficiary on all super and life insurance policies.  It is also just as important to have someone nominated as your Enduring Power of Attorney to make decisions on your behalf, should you be unable to for any reason in the future.

Did you know?  Research undertaken in October 2022 by Finder.com.au shows that nearly 52% of Australians or 9.9 million Australians have not prepared a Will.

Dying intestate – ie no Will, can create a lot of headaches for your loved ones and often costs your estate more money than having a Will in place.

Some of the most important decisions that you will ever make around your estate plan is who you nominate as your Enduring Power of Attorney, as well as who is the executor of your estate.  Often these two roles are performed by the same person/s.

If you have minor children, another area that is important is to nominate guardians for your children should neither parent be unable to care for them.

You need to select a person or persons (always a good idea to have a backup) that you trust implicitly and who know you well enough to know your wishes when your ‘time’ comes.

Being nominated as an executor is a daunting task as there is a lot of responsibility associated with this role.  Some of these functions include:

  • You must find and notify beneficiaries.
  • Gather all assets, or know where they are.
  • Pay all debts of the estate.
  • Prepare tax returns.
  • Transfer assets, or sale of assets
  • Distribute assets.

But more importantly, it is often the executor that also needs to take care of funeral arrangements and finalisation of all those little things that the “digital” age has provided us.

Did you know? – according to ABC 33 WYTV 15 November 2022- today some 30 million Facebook accounts belong to dead people.  That is across the globe and a lot of people!

We forget that we have so many passwords and logins to a lot of different accounts that no one will be able to access or close on our behalf when we are not here.  Some of these accounts like Netflix, Disney, Spotify, Prime etc have charges continuing to flow from bank accounts or credit cards.

This is where our Letter of Wishes, along with a list of passwords and instructions can be handy to be placed with your Will for your executor.

A letter of wishes, while not legally binding at all, does give you your VOICE from the GRAVE as to what you would like to occur when you are no longer here, or where things are for your executor to find.

  • It can outline your reasons as to why you have left certain things in your Will to beneficiaries. It may diffuse confusion or anger from your loved ones as they can understand ‘why’.
  • Outline whether you wish to be buried or cremated, where and what you would like to happen at your memorial or funeral.
  • Where you would like your ashes spread, if cremated.
  • Details of whom you would like to be informed of your passing, or not informed.
  • Information on your personal effects that are not listed directly in your Will, but you would like to give to someone and why.
  • Form of your final goodbye to your loved ones.
  • You can also let people know what you would like done with your social media accounts such as Facebook. Facebook can be either closed, or your account turned into a memorial account, all posts remain but the account is flagged as dead.
  • Your letter of wishes should be signed and dated by you.

With your Letter of Wishes, you can leave a list of all accounts – social media, music, TV, mobile phone, etc or direct your executor to a digital list of accounts and passwords such as Lastpass, with the password.  Your executor then can work through the list shutting down each account.

You can also leave a list of important contacts such as your Financial Planner, Accountant and/or Lawyer who is handling your estate, names of your bank accounts, your share accounts, investment accounts, super funds, life insurance policies, utility providers, home and car insurance providers, health insurer.  The list goes on.

So many things to think about for your formulating a well-thought-out estate plan and to ease any potential headaches for your executor/s.  You will be thanked, not cursed, if you are organised and have a letter of wishes, list of important contacts and passwords available to work with.

Fun Fact – The record for the longest will ever probated is 1,066 pages and 95,940 words and is held by Frederica Evelyn Stilwell Cook. The shortest known wills are only three words long, reading, “all to son” and “all to wife.”

Fast Fact – “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” Benjamin Franklin 1970

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