How can a letter of instruction help my estate plans?

| Apr 26, 2021 | Probate and Estate Administration | 0 comments

Some people compose a will but do not provide crucial information to carry the document out. For instance, you might specify in your will that your online accounts should go to your daughter but you have not disclosed the account passwords. If you write a letter of instruction to go along with your will, you might avoid this problem.

A letter of instruction or a letter of intent is not a legal document like a will. These are letters that provide information that your family does not know or clarification of what you have described in your will.

Giving information to relatives

There are a lot of things your family will need to know to realize your estate wishes, such as all of the assets that you own. Common examples include investment accounts, bank accounts, insurance policies, real estate, and intellectual property. People even use a letter of instruction to explain where they placed a will in case relatives do not know where it is.

A letter of instruction should also list contact information. Your family should know how to contact people such as your insurance agent, your financial adviser and your attorney following your death.

Explaining your estate wishes

Ideally, you would be able to discuss your estate wishes with your children in person. This may help your children to understand why one child receives a particular piece of property like a kitchen set or a piece of real estate. Tensions can flare among siblings if a parent does not provide an explanation behind his or her decisions.

If you cannot talk to your children about your estate matters in person, Kiplinger suggests you use a letter of intent to explain your decisions. Hearing from you even if just from a letter could cool tempers and help your family members accept your actions.

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Carol Sikov Gross is a member
of the National Academy of
Elder Law Attorneys

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