Should Your Estate Plan Include a Letter of Intent?

  • Clifford M. Cohen,
  •   Estate Planning FAQ
  •   Comments Off on Should Your Estate Plan Include a Letter of Intent?

A Letter of Intent, also called a Letter of Instruction, is a document outlining your wishes on a wide range of matters. Unlike a Last Will and Testament, which is a legally binding expression of your wishes, a Letter of Intent is an informal document. Your executor and loved ones are not required to abide by its instructions. So why would you consider creating one?

Given its informal nature, a Letter of Intent allows you to address matters typically not covered in a Will. It can help your executor and loved ones settle your estate while at the same time express your thoughts about matters such as your values, your hopes for your loved ones, and more.

Here are some examples of what you might want to include in your Letter of Intent:

  • A list of your assets and their location
  • Information about your bank, retirement, and other accounts, including account numbers, passwords, and PIN numbers
  • Contact information for key advisors, such as your broker, insurance agent, attorney, banker, and more
  • The people you want to receive assets of sentimental rather than monetary value
  • Where to find your birth certificate, recent social security statements and tax returns, military discharge papers, divorce papers, life insurance policies, and other important documents
  • Information about the mortgage on your home, auto loans, and other documents pertaining to creditors

In addition to “practical” matters such as these, you may want to provide information about subjects like:

  • Funeral instructions, including your wishes regarding music
  • Instructions for the care of any pets
  • Your values
  • Your hopes and dreams for each of your loved ones
  • A final, sentimental message to your family

One can think of a Letter of Intent as a love letter to your family. Not only can it expedite the settlement of your estate and make the process easier for your loved ones, it can also convey what mattered most to you in life. In essence, it can serve as part of your legacy.