For many Americans, creating an estate plan provides an unparalleled opportunity to make informed decisions about their assets, heirs, and liabilities. When created properly, an estate plan—whether it consists of little more than a simple will or includes a well-funded trust— protects your rights, both in life and after death. However, even the best-laid plan cannot curtail the potential for dispute and disagreement. DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, P.A., have spent a half-century helping Floridians establish long-lasting legacies. Our experienced estate attorney could help you or a loved one draft a letter of instruction for an executor or personal representative.
While not legally binding, a letter of instruction could forestall common misunderstandings by outlining your preferences and detailing your decisions.
Estate Planning and the Threat of Uncertainty
Estate planning necessitates informed and deliberate decision-making. Many people mistakenly believe that an estate plan can be delayed until old age. However, even a simple guideline protects Floridians from uncertainty.
An estate plan helps you, as the testator:
- Designate heirs and disburse inheritances
- Make decisions about health care and incapacity
- Keep your estate out of probate
Every estate plan is different, but most incorporate certain common elements. These include the ubiquitous will, powers of attorney, and living trusts, each of which can—in their own way—ensure inheritances and keep assets safe from intestacy.
While documents such as a will or durable power of attorney are legally binding, they don’t always provide extensive opportunity to explain the testator’s reason for making or rescinding different decisions. Without any explanation, executors and heirs can be left grasping for straws, trying to find the best way to honor a deceased loved one’s legacy.
A letter of instruction is typically used to complement more pointed estate planning measures by guiding executors and providing clarity to heirs.
3 Reasons to Include a Letter of Instruction in Your Estate Plan
A letter of instruction, also known as a letter of intent, is a non-binding document that outlines its writer’s wishes and preferences. It can be used to explain estate-related decisions or to offer detailed guidance to executors and agents in fact.
Unlike a will or durable power of attorney, letters of instruction aren’t legally enforceable. However, they provide much-needed insight for friends, family, and executors alike. Including a letter of instruction with your Florida estate plan may have the following advantages.
1) Expressing Personal Wishes
Since this isn’t binding, it can contain instructions and requests that may not be appropriate for a more formal document. You could, for instance, detail your preferred funeral rites or explain whether you would rather be buried or cremated.
2) Leaving Messages to Heirs
A letter of instruction can, in a great many ways, complement a conventional will. Many people use letters of intent to explain certain inheritance decisions, such as the choice to leave an heir a particular possession. By including individualized messages, testators remind heirs of their connection, lending sentimental value to gifts and bequests.
3) Improving the Administration of Your Estate
Aside from detailing your preferences and explaining your inheritance decisions, a letter of intent can also be used to provide guidance to an executor. You could:
- List the location of assets that your personal representative might otherwise struggle to locate
- Explain how to activate or manage certain accounts
- Provide a database of usernames and passwords to ensure the preservation of your digital estate
Letters of instruction can serve a wide range of purposes. While they’re neither mandatory nor regulated by Florida state law, they can prove incredibly useful.
Contact Our Sun City Center Estate Attorney for a Consultation
The lawyers at DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, PA, have been protecting the interests and ensuring the legacies of Floridians since 1976. Let us help you find the peace of mind you need with an effective, comprehensive estate plan. Call our estate attorney today at 727-777-6842 or use our online contact form for a prompt response from our legal team. We have conveniently located offices in Seminole, Sun City Center and New Port Richey, Florida.