A letter of intent is a written message you can leave to your loved ones and beneficiaries to explain the contents of your will, and instructions you want to be followed. Because a letter of intent is not a legal document and therefore is not legally binding, it is not a replacement for an up-to-date will and estate plan. But many people choose to leave a letter of intent, written in their own voice, without all the legalese, to explain their last wishes to their loved ones.
The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) recommends focusing a letter of intent on three categories:
• Funeral Wishes
Oftentimes a will isn’t opened until after the deceased is buried. A letter of intent, given to your attorney, executor or a trusted friend or family member can explain to your loved ones what your final wishes are. It could include who your family should contact and how to contact them, any funeral arrangements already made and paid for, preferences regarding burial or cremation, a draft obituary or any other special requests that your family would need to know.
• Financial Details
Your family may need financial information before your estate is settled. Your letter of intent could include financial details such as if you have a financial advisor or tax accountant, how to access money, where important documents are stored such as a social security number, marriage certificate, passwords for online accounts and where any insurance policies or retirement account information is stored.
• Personal Effects
The death of a loved one is very stressful, and unfortunately, many family disagreements occur when emotions are heightened. You may have jewelry, pets or other personal effects that require decisions to be made immediately after your death, not sometime in the future.
Because a letter of intent is not a legal document, it can be changed at any time. It’s important to store your letter of intent in a safe, accessible location where it can immediately be found and read in the event something happens to you. Hearing your final wishes, written in your voice, explaining your decisions, can be a comfort to your family and provide them with clear direction on your final wishes when they are feeling overwhelmed and saddened, and often need guidance.
A meeting with a Probate, Trust, & Estates Attorneys can help you feel prepared for the unknown knowing that you have a plan in place. Though it may be tempting to put off, having a plan in place can help prevent serious issues down the road. Contact one of our lawyers today and schedule an appointment at 630-864-5835.
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