One element of estate planning that is little discussed but can be very useful is the Letter of Intent. Generally contained within an estate plan, a Letter of Intent contains instructions on how the estate and the decedent’s executors should care for a child, particularly a child with special needs.
Your estate and your plan for it are more than just a set of documents. Nevertheless, it is only through documents that you and your wishes truly get a voice. There are the legal documents that speak to the court, but that does not necessarily do all of the speaking you need it to. When you need to leave that much more instruction behind there is an important tool to be found in the Letter of Intent.
A “Letter of Intent,” not unlike the business version used in and around business transactions, is not the document that does the legal heavy lifting but it can move things along. So, too, with letters of intent which are meant to supplement and complement a will or trust arrangement, but never to do the work standing alone. LifeHealthPro offered some important perspective on the Letter of Intent in a recent article with some special attention to planning for special needs children and it is worth your thoughts: “Letter of intent: a useful component of an estate plan.”
If the will tells the probate court what you want to do with your assets, the Letter of Intent gives you the voice to say the same for all of the other topics, from your hopes and wishes to very practical instruction regarding this or that. If you have a child with special needs, then a Letter of Intent can give you the space to offer all manners of practical instruction that simply cannot fit within a will and may be inappropriate for a legal document in the first place. That is the rub, of course. The Letter of Intent is not the will and is not legally binding.
For a bit more on the Letter of Intent as a tool and for a great deal more advice on how to use it, particularly with regard to children with special needs, check out the original article. Sometimes this little letter can mean all of the difference. In any event, it might help you and your loved ones organize your thoughts.
In the end, however, if your objectives require that some essential legal concerns are addressed, then the heavy lifting needs to be done in properly drawn legal documents. So what are your needs and how will you put them to paper?
Reference: LifeHealthPro (June 3, 3014) “Letter of intent: a useful component of an estate plan”