A will can be an integral part of your estate plan. It typically dictates how assets are to be divided, which sometimes includes pouring assets over into a trust. Poorly drafted wills can present a number of legal problems, including the risk that the document will be deemed legally invalid. Additionally, a bad will can lead to family infighting that the testator probably wanted to avoid. This is why it is usually best for Californians to work with an attorney who can help them ensure that their wills are clear and enforceable.
Yet, due to their legal nature, wills are sometimes impersonal and don't allow a testator the opportunity to explain why the estate is being distributed as indicated in the will. Also, a will typically doesn't specify how the testator hopes the estate's assets will be used. This is where letters of instruction can help.
This document, though not legally binding, can help provide clarity to an estate plan. To start, it can identify the specific location of a will and any physical assets that may be included in the estate plan. Other instructions can be included in a letter of instruction, too. A testator can specify how a beloved pet is to be cared for, funeral arrangements should be handled, and estate debts should be addressed. Even personal messages can be left to beneficiaries, heirs, and other loved ones, which may include the testator's wishes for how certain assets will be handled by those beneficiaries and heirs.
The estate planning process can be overwhelming to some individuals, as well as impersonal. Competent letters of instruction can add the clarity and personal touch that many Californians want their estate plan to have. These documents can leave loved ones, as well as an estate administrator, with a clear idea of you wishes for the estate and how to start the process. Those who want to learn more about how to ensure their estate plans are holistic enough to meet their needs should think about working closely with an experienced estate planning attorney.