Estate planning is an important task that everyone should undertake as it helps to protect your family and loved one’s financial future. However, estate planning can do much more than focus on finances…it can also provide for care of those you leave behind. One aspect of estate planning that is often overlooked but can be quite useful is the letter of intent. This document is typically contained within an estate plan and includes instructions on how the estate and decedent’s executors should manage the estate’s assets and care for family and loved ones.
The Benefits of Letters of Intent
Estate planning documents are written in broad legal terms. Some terms that you will commonly see in these documents include health, education, maintenance, and support. Eventually, your estate plan, and the included wishes, will need to be implemented. Since there can be numerous interpretations to these terms, a letter of intent can help provide clarification with additional context regarding what you want these terms to mean.
Likewise, it is typical for trusts to grant the trustee discretion to distribute the estate’s assets. This discretion gives the trustee the freedom to decide what should be done in regards to a beneficiary’s share. A letter of intent can provide the trustee with guidance on how to exercise his, her or its discretion without the legal risk of limiting their decision by putting this into the trust document. A letter of intent can be a vital document when it comes to providing for a child, especially one with special needs.
Limitations of Letters of Intent
While letters of intent can be a useful addition to your estate plan, there are some limitations to these documents. For instance, a letter of intent is not a legally binding document. It simply serves as a guide for the management of your estate after your death. That being said, courts across the country have generally relied on letters of intent when there is a question regarding the decedent’s wishes. Similarly, anyone who is put in charge of managing your estate will likely turn to your letter of intent for instruction as well.
Essentially, a letter of intent is a blueprint for your other estate planning documents. Once your letter of intent is written with specific preferences regarding your estate, your other estate planning documents should reflect these intentions so that your wishes are carried out properly and consistently. A letter of intent can be written at any point, no matter where you are in life. A letter of intent should be written simply but be comprehensive in content. This can include information that would not be put into your estate planning documents, such as life experiences you wish to promote with your assets.
Legacy Planning Help
While letters of intent are not legally binding, these documents are useful because they can provide guidance and context to the financial legacy you left behind and how your trustees and executors should manage your estate. The time is now to create your estate plan, no matter where you are in life. Contact us today to learn more about your options in securing your family’s future and making your wishes for the future known to your family.