It is up to the executor to decide whether they will follow your wishes as set out in your Statement and it can provide invaluable guidance to assist your executor in fulfilling their duties.
Being non-binding also allows the executor greater flexibility. Say for example that in your Statement you say that you want your niece to get your antique dining table and chairs. However, at the date of your death, your niece is living in Canada and the cost to ship the furniture to her would be exorbitant. Your executor can use their discretion to gift the dining set to another relative and make an alternate gift to the niece.
Another advantage of the Statement of Wishes is that it remains confidential. Once an application for a Grant of Probate is made, the Will becomes a public document. The Statement of Wishes does not form part of the application for Probate. Therefore, a copy of the Statement does not need to be provided to the Supreme Court, to the beneficiaries or any other relatives.
Finally, your Statement of Wishes can be updated and changed at any time. It is generally recommended that you update your Will with the assistance of a solicitor who also acts as a witness to you signing the Will. This can incur legal costs and there may be some difficulty in booking in appointments.
Your Statement of Wishes on the other hand does not need the involvement of a solicitor, can be done at any time and does not need witnesses. You can update the Statement however you want, as often as you want.
Even though it is an informal document, it is recommended that you date and sign every page of the Statement, so it is easy to identify the latest version and to prevent any page or pages being fraudulently substituted.
The informal Statement of Wishes is an essential part of your estate plan and a perfect accompaniment to the legally binding Will. It creates a record of your more personal information and wishes and also provides the executor with guidance to perform their duties more efficiently and as you would prefer.