The letter of instruction can give estate planning more heart

Jun 8, 2020 | Estate Planning

The great thing about estate planning is that it is a completely customizable process. There is a wide array of estate planning tools at your disposal to suit your needs, regardless of your wealth or age. In order to secure the future you envision for your estate and your loved ones, though, you’ll need to be well-informed on your planning options and act on them early enough to provide sufficient protection. This may include drafting a will, creating one or more trusts, and developing a power of attorney.

There’s another part of an estate plan, though, that is often overlooked: the letter of instruction. While this document doesn’t carry a lot of legal meaning, it can have a profound impact on your loved ones and guide them in how you want your final arrangements to play out and your assets to be used. It gives you the opportunity to explain your estate plan decisions that otherwise may come across as cold or confusing when simply reading the legal documents contained within your estate plan.

So what, specifically, can you do with a letter of instruction? Any of the following:

  • Identify who will receive items of little value but may have great sentimental significance and are not addressed in your formal estate plan or which may be alluded to in the will that references the letter of intent
  • Specify how you want your final arrangements to play out, even down to the music to be played at your funeral
  • List all assets and their locations
  • Provide information regarding bank, retirement, and other accounts
  • Explain a complex asset distribution plan
  • Contact information for all important insurance companies, brokers, and bankers
  • Instructions for donating to charities and caring for beloved pets

There’s a lot that a letter of instruction can do. Many people feel that it is much more personal than the mere legalities of wills and trusts. You shouldn’t simply rely on a letter of instruction, though, since it has very little, if any, legal significance. Therefore, in order to create a holistic, custom-tailored estate plan that fits your needs, you may want to discuss creating a will, trusts, a power of attorney, and a letter of instruction that suits your needs and wishes for the future.