If you are in the process of establishing an estate plan for the first time or revising your existing estate plan, you are already familiar with the formal documents drafted by your estate planning attorney—including a Last Will and Testament, Living Will, Revocable Trust, Healthcare Power of Attorney, or Financial Power of Attorney.
A letter of intent, also called a letter of instruction, can be a helpful addition to these estate planning documents. Writing a letter of intent, to be read upon your passing, can further explain your estate plan to your executor, trustee, surviving family members, and beneficiaries. Often, these letters can serve as a thoughtful reminder of your intentions and provide comfort and clarity to your family.
More personal and informal than your other estate planning documents, a letter of intent is not legally binding and does not take the place of your legal documents. The letter is supplemental and can include any number of personal anecdotes. It should be kept in a safe place—typically with your legal estate planning documents.
Examples of what a letter of intent might include:
- Hopes for family legacy.
- Wishes regarding family values.
- A sentimental message to loved ones.
- An explanation of your estate plan (e.g., why property is left to one person and not another or why property will be transferred to a trust).
- Information about a dependent with special needs.
- Funeral or memorial service arrangements.
- Practical information about a safety deposit box, insurance policies, digital accounts and passwords for online bill pay, social media, and email accounts.
- Instructions regarding the care of pets.