Why Your Existing Estate Planning Tools May Not Be Enough
Although every estate plan is unique, the average estate plan will include a number of common documents. For example, a Last Will and Testament typically serves as the foundation of an estate plan, allowing you to appoint a Personal Representative for your estate, gift assets, and nominate a Guardian for minor children. It cannot, however, explain why you did not gift your estate equally to your children nor why you appointed a sibling, instead of a spouse, as the Personal Representative. A current trend is establish a revocable living trust, which can help achieve a variety of goals, including avoiding probate. A trust agreement, however, is not the best place to leave detailed instructions about the upkeep of trust assets or why you decided to pass down those assets in staggered disbursements. An advance directive can specifically grant an Agent the ability to make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself and lets you make certain healthcare decisions yourself ahead of time. It cannot explain the reason why you made those decisions though.
All of these estate planning documents are essential to the plan you put together in an effort to protect yourself, your assets, and your loved ones. You may still feel though that parts of the plan are missing. A Letter of Instruction can help complete your estate plan.
What Is a Letter of Instruction?
As the name implies, a Letter of Instruction is a document that you include in your estate plan that provides instructions not found elsewhere in your plan. 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 revocable living trust, Will, or life insurance policies.
- 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 home 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 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.
Do You Need a Letter of Instruction?
Whether or not a Letter of Instruction is right for your estate plan is ultimately a decision you must make after consulting with your estate planning attorney. Although the directions you include in a Letter of Instruction are not legally binding, they can go a long way toward assisting with your estate plan and can help prevent litigation. A Letter of Instruction will make administering your estate easier and 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 Trustee/Personal Representative to defend your wishes if litigation cannot be avoided.
Contact Phoenix Estate Planning Attorneys
If you have additional questions or concerns about including a Letter of Instruction into your estate plan, contact the experienced estate planning attorneys at Morris Hall PLLC by calling 888-222-1328 to schedule your appointment today.