Should I have a letter of instruction with my estate plan?

| Nov 23, 2020 | Estate Planning

When you start thinking about an estate plan, it is easy to get a little overwhelmed by all the options and tools available. Further, folks can worry that some of their wishes or thoughts get lost in the legal jargon.

If you are in this position and you want to provide more context or plain language that is easier for your loved ones to understand, you can include a letter of instruction with you will and estate planning documents.

What is a letter of instruction?

Broadly, a letter of instruction is a letter you create to accompany your legal paperwork. It is a non-legally binding document you can use in a variety of ways. As this article discusses, you can use a letter of instruction to help the executor of your estate in locating assets, accessing accounts and contacting your attorney.

Alternatively, you might use it to write personal messages to loved ones, for instance, and share meaningful memories.

Some people also use a letter of instruction to convey apologies, regrets and mistakes. Those who do this could be providing their families with some information or closure they may not have otherwise had.

This letter could also be a means of expressing your beliefs in more detail. You might explain your religious or cultural decisions to help family members understand your end-of-life care or plans for a funeral. You could also discuss what you hope beneficiaries would use financial gifts for.

Reasons to include one with your estate plan

Keep in mind that this letter is not legally binding; it will not replace your will; it will not be sufficient in avoiding intestacy laws if you do not have a will. As such, you must also have legally-binding documents.

However, it can be a valuable component for your loved ones as it can help them understand the things that might have been lost or overlooked in the legal documentation. It can give them guidance, reassurance and an explanation for things they need to move forward.