The estate plan that you create, and add to, over the course of your lifetime is intended to protect you, your assets, and your loved ones as well as ensure that your loved ones are adequately provided for after you are gone. A well thought out and comprehensive estate plan will include a wide range of inter-related tools and strategies that work together in harmony to achieve all of your estate planning goals. Despite the numerous and varied estate planning documents that are available to include in your plan, you may find that there is additional information and/or directions you wish to leave for your loved ones that do not seem to have a place in any of those documents. The Port St. Lucie estate planning attorneys at Kulas & Crawford explain how a Letter of Instruction can solve your problem.
Estate Planning Tools
A comprehensive estate plan will typically include a number of documents, starting with a Last Will and Testament that allows you to appoint an Executor for your estate, gift assets, and nominate a Guardian for minor children. You might also include a trust into which you transfer assets and that can serve a variety of purposes. A Power of Attorney lets you grant an Agent the authority to act on your behalf in legal matters while an advance directive can specifically grant an Agent the ability to make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself. All of these estate planning documents are essential pieces of the puzzle you put together in an effort to protect yourself, your assets, and your loved ones. While each of these documents is tailored to help achieve a specific estate planning goal, you may find that you have additional information you wish to include in your plan that simply doesn’t fit in any of the documents. That is where a Letter of Instruction comes in handy.
What Is a Letter of Instruction?
As the name implies, a Letter of Instruction is a document that you may include in your estate plan that provides instructions not found elsewhere in your plan. A Letter of Instruction, however, can also be used for other similar purposes. Anything you choose to include in your Letter of Instructions is not legally binding on anyone; however, the information you include can be crucial to your overall plan. Some common uses for a Letter of Instruction include:
- Provide the location of important estate planning documents, such as your Will, life insurance policies, or a trust agreement.
- Provide a summary of all assets you own along with account numbers and/or online log in instructions to access the accounts.
- Names and contact information for people that need to be contacted after your death.
- Instructions for maintaining assets. This could be as simple as how to winterize your vacation cottage or how to value your rare coin collection.
- Explanations for controversial decisions you made within your estate plan. For example, if you gave a large donation to a charity or disinherited a child, this is your opportunity to explain why you did what you did.
- Express your wishes with regard to your funeral and burial. Ideally, you included a funeral component in your estate plan; however, you may wish to add details to ensure that your wishes are honored.
Why Include a Letter of Instruction?
Although the instructions you include in a Letter of Instruction are not legally binding, they can go a long way toward assisting with the probate of your estate and even preventing litigation. Anything you can do to make your Executor’s job easier will ultimately benefit your loved ones. Moreover, if any of the terms of your estate plan are likely to cause conflict or animosity, explaining why you included those terms can deter litigation, or assist your Executor to defend your wishes if litigation cannot be avoided.
Contact Port St. Lucie Estate Planning Attorneys
Please take a moment to download our FREE solid estate plan checklist. If you have additional questions or concerns about including a Letter of Instruction in your overall estate plan, contact the experienced Port St. Lucie estate planning attorneys at Kulas & Crawford by calling (772) 398-0720 to schedule an appointment.