Ensuring Your Trust Is Exactly as You Plan It — Through Generations

By Whittier Trust

A trust can serve as one of the most powerful and enduring instruments of your legacy.  Whether providing a financial safety-net for your family or supporting the philanthropic causes that matter to you, a trust can ensure that your values and legacy continue for generations to come.

Yet, all trustees are not created equal. Too often, there are nuances and even key aspects of trusts that are open to interpretation.

That’s where a Statement of Wishes (SOW) comes in — an additional document that can be both effective in ensuring your wishes, while providing a specific roadmap for future generations.

Statement of Wishes — how does it work?

Think of it like constructing a house. The trust provides the framework for a trustee to execute your goals. In other words, by creating a trust, you have poured the foundation. The Statement of Wishes represents all that goes into making it a home — the design, the build out, even the decor — all of the choices that could help better guide the trustee and future beneficiaries.

A Statement of Wishes is drafted by the grantor(s). It provides additional, specific guidance and often reasoning to the trustee and beneficiaries regarding trust decisions, beyond the four corners of the actual Trust Document. It serves as an expression of the grantor’s values and beliefs: a non-binding letter of instruction to a trustee regarding how to interpret possible requests. Where the trust provides the legal framework within which a trustee must operate, the Statement of Wishes is more subjective, and acts as the voice of the grantor—helping ensure the grantors’ values are reflected in the actions of the trustee. 

In practice, the Statement of Wishes can provide both broad thematic guidance (‘beneficiaries should be encouraged to pursue productive employment’) as well as anticipate specific requests (‘the trust may loan funds to a beneficiary to start a business venture’). For example, you may choose to make clear that the Trustee may consider distributions to a child who has followed his passion and intentionally chosen a lower-paying career in teaching or charity, or specifically note that payments need not be equalized among siblings. Some grantors emphasize higher education for their descendants.

A Statement of Wishes may contain personal anecdotes and reflections from the grantor about what they most value, and what they’d like the trust to accomplish. In this way, no two Statements are ever alike; each reflects the unique philosophies of the grantor. The more personal and well considered they are, the more effective the Statement is likely to be in the future. 

Many families choose to share the content of their Statements ahead of time with their beneficiaries. We’ve often seen this result in the Statement becoming a cornerstone of the family legacy, connecting future generations to the grantor in ways that might not otherwise be possible.

Ultimately, a well-crafted Statement of Wishes can ensure that your voice continues to guide both trustees and future generations for decades to come — but only when accompanied by a trustee who knows your family well, and is willing to take the time to make sure that your goals are respected and advanced. 

Whittier Trust Company and The Whittier Trust Company of Nevada, Inc. are state-chartered trust companies, which are wholly owned by Whittier Holdings, Inc., a closely held holding company. All of said companies are referred to herein, individually and collectively, as “Whittier”. This document is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended, and should not be construed, as investment, tax or legal advice. Please consult your own investment, legal and/or tax advisors in connection with financial decisions and before engaging in any financial transactions. This document does not purport to be a complete statement of approaches, which may vary due to individual factors and circumstances.  Although the information provided is carefully reviewed, Whittier makes no representations or warranties regarding the information provided and cannot be held responsible for any direct or incidental loss or damage resulting from applying any of the information provided. Past performance is no guarantee of future results and no investment or financial planning strategy can guarantee profit or protection against losses. These materials may not be reproduced or distributed without Whittier’s prior written consent.  For additional information about Whittier, please visit our website at www.whittiertrust.com.

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