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Many Forget to Include “Letter of Instruction” As Part of Estate Plan

Over the past several decades many more local community members have come to understand the importance of crafting a New York estate plan. From the drafting of wills to the creation of complex trusts, the value of conducting asset preparation for one’s family is much more appreciated now than at times in the past. Yet, many New Yorkers stop a bit short in their preparation–often leaving uncertain whether their exact wishes will be fulfilled once the decision is in the hands of others.

One thing often forgotten is a “letter of instruction.” As reported by SmartMoney, a recent survey suggests that 56% of Baby Boomers have a will but very few have appropriate “letters of instruction.” These documents are generally not legally-binding–unlike a will–but they are instead explanatory instructions to help others understand your specific wishes.

These letters may include a variety of information that your heirs would want to know when you are gone. They are perhaps best viewed as supplements to your official estate plan, providing more explanation for the choices made in the legal documents of the plan. The letter may also include specific explication of funeral wishes or even more practical information like PIN numbers and computer access codes.

In addition, it may be important to have “letters of instruction” sent to third parties as part of your estate plan. For example, upon creating a Medicaid Asset Protection Trust, our attorneys advise that letters of instruction be sent to those who prepare your taxes and perhaps your homeowners insurance company. No matter what your circumstances, these explanatory letters are important additions to your overall estate plan, complimenting documents like your will, living will, and durable power of attorney. They may go a long way in easing the stress and confusion of your surviving family members.

One overlooked benefit of visiting a New York estate planning attorney is the peace of mind that comes with knowing you are not forgetting any important elements of the process. There is no reason to go through the effort of crafting a will and creating trusts only to have wishes go unfulfilled because of a few missing materials, like a “letter of instruction.” By visiting professionals you will be assured that your plans will in fact be carried out by those you leave behind.

See Our Related Blog Posts:

High-Profile Example Highlights Need for Clarity in the Estate Planning Process

New York Estate Planning is Much More than Wills & Trusts

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