Worried that your loved ones won’t carry out your wishes when you’re gone?
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve spent the majority of your life building your family legacy. You’ve even met with an estate lawyer, and have your plan all mapped out (which is great!) But you’re still left wondering: is everything going to be carried out the way I have planned when the worst happens?
Honestly, that’s a very valid concern to have. And I’m here to help simplify things for you, because I know all of this can get really confusing, fast.
In this blog, we’ll be discussing what a letter of intent is, the benefits of it, and what all should be included.
What is a Letter of Intent?
Think of a letter of intent as your personal touch to the legal documents of your estate plan. Let’s face it, a lot of people don’t want to decipher legal jargon. Having something that’s written in layman terms brings a lot less anxiety to your family. And it’s a great reason why you should look into writing a letter of intent.
Since it’s such a personal letter, the only people who will be seeing it are you and your beneficiaries. You can freely express your emotions and personal details in your letter of intent, and not worry about it being shared with those outside your inner circle.
A key thing you should be aware of though — your private letter is not legally binding. This gives you the opportunity to speak more directly (in your own voice) about why certain assets are meaningful to you, and where you’d like for them to end up. One thing you want to make sure of is that your letter compliments your estate plan. You don’t want it to contradict anything you’ve already written.
Also, a letter of intent is not supposed to be a replacement for your Last Will and Testament — especially since it’s non-binding. Having a legally binding Will is still essential when making your estate plan.
Your letter is meant to include as many details and instructions as possible (that aren’t stated in your Will or Trust.) This really helps provide context and clarity to others who are reading your estate plan, particularly if you have young children being left behind.
How This Benefits Your Family (Especially Your Kids)
Legal documents are just the structural skeleton of your estate plan. But unfortunately, legal documents don’t convey much about the personality of a person (i.e. your children.)
A letter of intent is your opportunity as a parent to put down on paper all you know about your child and their personality. Are they early birds or night owls? Do they eat hearty in the morning or prefer to start with a little juice and toast? Do they have a specific night time routine in order for them to settle down? You know your kids best, and you’ll want to make sure others do too.
If you have a child with special needs, or a sensory issue — you definitely want to have their preferences written down as a guide for their new caregiver. Trust me, it will help out both parties immensely, especially if the child has trouble communicating. Listing details about what your child dislikes or needs could be the difference between them having a great day, versus having a complete meltdown.
Your child and their caregiver will most likely have fewer stress-filled situations if they have your letter of intent to refer to. That being said, it’s important to keep your letter updated so that it grows with your child and their needs.
What Should be Included in Your Letter of Intent:
Not sure how to write a letter of intent? I’ve got you covered. Below are some important things you’ll want to be sure and include in your letter.
Funeral and Burial Arrangements: For example, if you’d like to be cremated, note where you’d want your ashes scattered. If you want to be buried next to a particular member of your family, put that in your letter. You can put even more detail and say you want certain songs or poems to be read at your service. Maybe there are specific people you’d like to notify of your passing. Or a favorite charity that you’d like to give your money to.
Financial Information: You’ll want to make sure that your family and loved ones know where to locate essential financial information. Bank account numbers, routing numbers, names of your insurance agents or lawyers who might have dealt with your assets. You also want to include where your social security card is located, your birth certificate, military data, marriage/divorce documents, mortgages, or any outstanding debt you may have.
Digital Information: It’s very important that your loved ones are able to access your digital accounts. If you have a bunch of photos and videos on your computer that you want your family to have access to, it’s vital to have your passwords and logins accessible and written down in a spot so your family isn’t left guessing or worse — locked out!
Since your letter of intent doesn’t need to be written in fancy legal terms, your family will appreciate having something easy to read and understand. The good news is that it’s super easy to keep it updated. In fact, you can change up your LOI any time you’d like, because it’s not legally binding.
Pair Your Letter With Your Estate Plan Today
As you can see, a letter of intent is extremely useful when used in conjunction with your estate plan. It’s a way of giving extra details that a legal document doesn’t include. And quite frankly, it’s a perfect way to guarantee that your wishes will be fulfilled after your passing.
One thing that you do want to have verified is that your LOI compliments your estate plan. You don’t want it to contradict anything you’ve already written.
Thinking of writing your own letter but want to make sure you do it right? Contact me today and we can discuss how to write your own letter of intent. Or if you already have one, let’s confirm that it pairs seamlessly with your estate plan. Together, we can put your family’s mind (and your own) at peace.
My phone number is: (816) 550-0644.
I look forward to assisting you!