Your estate plan should be uniquely designed to achieve your specific goals and objectives using a variety of estate planning tools and strategies. All these estate planning documents are essential components used to protect yourself, your assets, and your loved ones. You may still feel though that something is missing. A Letter of Instruction could be that missing component. The Los Angeles estate planning attorneys at Schomer Law Group, APC explain how a letter of instruction might fit into your estate plan.
Common Estate Plan Components
For most people, a Last Will and Testament serves as the foundation of their comprehensive estate plan. A Will allows you to appoint an Executor 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 Executor. You might also include a trust, which can help achieve a variety of goals, and into which you will transfer assets. A trust agreement, however, is not the best place to leave detailed instructions about the upkeep of those 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. To explain the decisions you made, or to provide further instructions related to those decisions, you may wish to create a Letter of Instruction.
What Is a Letter of Instruction?
A Letter of Instruction is a document that can be included in your estate plan to provide explanations and instructions not found elsewhere in your plan. The explanations and instructions you include in your Letter of Instructions are 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 login instructions to access the accounts.
- List the names and contact information of people that need to be contacted after your death.
- Leaving instructions for maintaining assets. This could be as simple as how to winterize your vacation cottage or how to value your rare coin collection.
- Explaining controversial decisions that 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.
- Expressing your wishes about 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 I Need a Letter of Instruction?
Ultimately, the decision to include a Letter of Instruction in your estate plan is one you should only make after consulting with your estate planning attorney. Even though a Letter of Instruction is not a legally binding document, the information you include in yours can go a long way toward assisting with the probate of your estate. Anything you can do to make your Executor’s job easier will ultimately benefit your loved ones. Moreover, including a Letter of Instruction in your estate plan can also help prevent litigation. 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 Los Angeles Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about including a Letter of Instruction in your estate plan, contact the experienced Los Angeles estate planning attorneys at Schomer Law Group APCby calling (310) 337-7696 to schedule an appointment.
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