Woman with elderly mother

Why do I need a Letter of Intent as part of my estate plan?

A letter of intent is a personal addition to the formal documents of your estate plan, providing your heirs and your personal representative with detailed information about your wishes. Apart from providing insight into what will have to be taken care of in your absence, the letter of intent will describe precisely how you would like things to be handled. 

Although you may have discussed these matters with your loved ones, memories fade and instructions blur. Your letter of intent will serve as a clear reminder of your wishes that can be repeatedly referred to and shared.

Benefits of Having a Letter of Intent 

While a letter of intent is not a legal document and need not be notarized, it is wise to discuss what it should include with a well-informed estate planning attorney before you begin. There are several benefits to having a letter of intent as part of your estate plan, including:

  • It is written in layman’s terms and will be fully understandable to family members
  • Though it will not replace a will or well-crafted trusts, it can elaborate on their purposes
  • Because it is an informal document, you can easily change and update it at any time as your circumstances change
  • It offers you a way of “having your voice heard” after you’re gone which may be a great comfort to your loved ones

If you reside in Southeastern Massachusetts or on Cape Cod, the highly capable estate planning attorneys at Surprenant & Beneski will be happy to discuss items you may want to include in your letter of intent, as well as assist you in all other aspects of your estate plan.

What Letters of Intent Commonly Include

Although letters of intent are, by nature, individualized, most address the following:

  • Funeral and Burial Arrangements

Usually, letters of intent describe wishes about funeral/memorial and burial/cremation arrangements. For some, this involves simply stating choices about final disposition; for others, it may be extremely detailed, e.g. including music to be played or poems to be read. You may also list people you want to make sure are notified when you pass and/or charities you would like contributed to in your memory.

  • Financial Information

A letter of intent is a good place to put information about your bank accounts and other assets. It is also an appropriate place to list the names and contact information of specific financial advisors, lawyers, and insurance agents who have relevant information. In this document, you can note the location of other important documents, such as your birth certificate, Social Security card and statement, marriage and/or divorce documents, military data, mortgages, and records of any outstanding debts. 

  • Digital Information

During the past several decades, it has become imperative that digital accounts, as well as paper documents, are accessible by our heirs. A letter of intent is a place to list digital assets and social media accounts, and to provide access to essential passwords. Image how much time can be saved and anxiety relieved by offering your loved ones this information all in one place.

  • Distribution of Personal Effects 

The last thing you want to do when you die is leave behind a squabbling family. Much post mortem misery can be avoided by not only designating who gets the antique china vase and who gets the oriental rug but by explaining why you’ve made these decisions. Typically, brouhahas are not really about the objects themselves. Your loved ones just want to be sure they are important to you and well-loved. To this end, your letter of intent will be reassuring.

  • Crucial Information About Special Needs Family Members

If one of your loved ones (child or adult) has special needs, your letter of intent is the perfect place to document those needs in detail. Since these loved ones may be unable to communicate their wishes, it is important that you itemize all aspects of their routine care and finances (healthcare, government benefits, personal likes and dislikes) so they can transition to a life without you as smoothly as possible. 

  • Pet Care

Even if you have not created a pet trust for your beloved animal companion, you will likely want to document specific care requirements concerning nourishment, medical care, grooming, and exercise. Your letter of intent is a fine place to state your wishes.

Contact Our Experienced, Caring Estate Planning Attorneys Today

While none of us likes to contemplate our own death, all of us want to leave our loved ones well-cared-for and comfortable. Get in touch with our knowledgeable team to find out how adding a letter of intent to your estate plan can make you feel more secure and give your family additional useful tools they need to move forward when you pass away.