A comprehensive estate plan is one that takes into account a variety of goals and objectives and that makes use of numerous strategies and tools. Although your Last Will and testament should serve as the cornerstone of your estate plan, it will likely not be the only document found in your estate plan. One estate planning document that people are often unfamiliar with is a Letter of Instruction. The versatility of a Letter of Instruction, however, makes it worth considering as an addition to your comprehensive estate plan.
A Letter of Instruction is not a legally binding document. Instead, it is a document that allows you to include information, directions, and/or explanations that are not found elsewhere in your estate plan. Because it is not a legally binding document, a Letter of Instruction can take any form and may be created to suit your needs. Though there are no guidelines for what can or should be included in your Letter of Instruction, people commonly use it for one of three reasons:
Instructions – you can use your Letter of Instruction to do just that – instruct your beneficiaries about important matters. You could include your general philosophy about investing, express your desires for how your gifts are to be spent, or even leave personal advice for each beneficiary in your letter. If you did not do so elsewhere in your plan, your Letter of Instruction is also an opportunity to provide instructions regarding your funeral and burial so that those you left behind don’t have to make difficult decisions during a time of immense grief.
Directions – regardless of how thorough your estate plan is, there will likely be practical information missing in the plan itself. Your Letter of Instruction can be used to provide directions not found elsewhere in the plan. Where are the keys to your pontoon boat? How do you winterize your vacation home? What real estate agent do you want your executor to use during probate? Directions such as these can be left in the letter to make life easier for those you leave behind.
Explanations – decision you made in your estate plan may be confusing to beneficiaries. In fact, they could lead to anger or resentment. You likely made those decisions for a good reason. If you wish to offer an explanation for controversial decisions you made in your estate plan, your Letter of Instruction is your chance to do so.
If you believe that a Letter of Instruction would make a valuable addition to your estate plan, consult with your Missouri estate planning attorney about creating one.