Letter of Wishes for Guardians of Children
Updated: Sep 1, 2021
A letter of wishes is a formal but non-binding document that provides guidance to the appointed guardians regarding their role, and can include the parents’ wishes, values, and guiding principles to be considered by the guardians. It is a helpful and effective way to communicate parents’ intentions for how they wish their minor children to be raised.
A letter of wishes may address a variety of topics and include guidelines, such as:
•the reasons the parents named the guardian(s);
•family values and personal goals;
•dating and marriage considerations, including the reasons why a prenuptial agreement may be appropriate;
•an education plan, including which schools parents would wish their children to attend, funding for postsecondary education, and the value that should be placed on education;
•religion, including attendance of services and coming of age ceremonies;
•extracurricular activities they would encourage their children to be involved in;
•finances, including encouraging financial literacy, the “value of money”, standard of living, and lifestyle preferences;
•travel considerations; and
•family relationships, including wishes for family get-togethers and the importance of family.
Although not legally binding, there are several benefits to providing guidance on these issues outside of the will, including:
•flexibility in changing the letter of wishes without needing to revise the will; and
•privacy, as it does not become a public document if the will is probated.
It is important to alert the guardians to the existence of a letter of wishes. The letter of wishes should be stored with the will to ensure it is not lost or misplaced, and that the guardians will be made aware of it when the estate planning documents are reviewed by the personal representatives. Parents should regularly review their letter of wishes every few years to confirm it still accurately reflects their intentions for their minor children. A letter of wishes can be an invaluable guide for guardians and can also provide parents with the peace of mind that they have provided additional guidance on the raising of their children.