When contacting us to discuss Estate Planning, our clients are usually focused on the legal aspects of what happens after their death, such as ‘who gets what’, creating testamentary trusts, or business succession. While it is crucial to have a legally binding Will to implement those intentions, it can be equally important from an emotional perspective to record your non-legal wishes. These can include funeral wishes, directions for raising your children or a list of people you would like to be notified on your death. Ultimately, these are very personal decisions that should be expressed in your ‘voice’, but our team can assist you with finding the right forum to record your wishes.

Memorandum of Wishes

A Memorandum of Wishes is a document that is stored with your Will. It is not legally binding (and should be expressed as such to ensure it does not revoke your Will) but can be used by your Executors, beneficiaries or by the Court to provide context to your Will or further instructions. We regularly assist clients to prepare Memoranda of Wishes in the following situations:

  • Where they have chosen to exclude someone from their Will , or give disproportionate amounts to beneficiaries, and wish to explain their reasoning for so doing (which can also be produced to the Court if the Will is challenged);
  • Where their Executors/Trustees will be taking control of a Trust or business and the Willmaker wishes to provide guidance on how that Trust or business should be run; or
  • Where the Willmaker has children under the age of eighteen and has appointed a Guardian in their Will to whom the Willmaker wants to give directions as to the children’s upbringing.

A Memorandum of Wishes is a flexible document and can be adapted to the individual Willmaker’s needs. We have seen Memoranda include directions such as ‘I would like my Trustees to advance funds to my grandchildren to purchase a car at the age of eighteen’ or even ‘I would like seafood platters at my wake’.

We can help you tailor this document to fit you and your wishes. For more information on the Memorandum of Wishes, see our blog post here.

Personal Information and Asset Register

As part of our service, we provide all Wills clients with a copy of our Personal Information and Assets Register, which is a document (in hard- and soft-copy) specifically tailored for clients to record up-to-date details of their property and other matters. The document includes spaces to record the contact details of individuals who should be contacted in the event of the Willmakers death, the details of any pre-paid funeral plans or burial plots, and the usernames and passwords for the Willmaker’s social media accounts. Such a document assists the Executors of the Willmaker’s Estate to carry out their wishes as well as the day-to-day running of the Estate, as the details of the Deceased’s assets are set out clearly for the Executor to ‘call in’. We regularly update our Register document to ensure it is in line with our clients’ needs and can even store a digital copy in the cloud for clients on request.

Organ Donor Register

Many of our clients wish for their organs to be donated for medical purposes after their death. While we can include such a direction in a Will, Memorandum of Wishes or Personal Information and Asset Register, it would likely be too late to implement your wishes for organ donation by the time those documents are read. We recommend that any client who wishes to donate their organs registers their intentions with Donate Life online. Donate Life then provides each individual with a donor card to carry in their wallet. It is also crucial that you inform your family members of your wishes as they may be called upon to make the final decision as to whether your organs are recovered for donation.

Please note that organ donation is a separate issue to Advance Care Directives, which deal with your wishes for the end of your life. For more information on advanced planning, click here.

Digital Keys

As our lives become increasingly digital, clients are becoming conscious of what happens to their ‘digital assets’ after their deaths. Such assets may include subscriptions and purchased content (e.g. Netflix and Spotify accounts), photos stored in the cloud (e.g. through iCloud or Dropbox) or important documents, such as those related to a business, stored in a Google Drive. Your Will may dictate the ownership of these digital assets or you may have other specific wishes for these assets, such as a playlist for your funeral or photos for your memorial booklet. You may also wish for your Executors to log into your social media accounts to place them in ‘memorial mode’.

To address these concerns, some providers have introduced products that allow individuals to nominate a contact who can access their account after their death through a ‘key’ or ‘legacy contact’. We suggest that our clients research their own legacy contact or digital key products as they will vary according to which services you use. While we do not endorse any specific product, this article gives a breakdown of options for some popular providers such as Apple, Google and Facebook.

Looking for holistic Estate Planning advice, taking into account both your legal options and your non-legal wishes? Contact our friendly team today to arrange a no-obligation consultation at our CBD office or via videoconference.