Thursday, June 5, 2014
An often forgotten, but very useful estate-planning tool is a Letter of Intent. Usually 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 special needs child.
A Letter of Intent can be an essential document used to ensure special care for their children, and there are no drawbacks to including one in an estate plan. However, there are limitations to Letters of Intent:
- Blueprint for other documents. After outlining specific preferences for the care of a client’s child, those wishes can be reflected in wills or trusts to ensure that they are carried out.
- It can be written today. Regardless of where you and your child are in life, a Letter of Intent can be prepared. Yet, it makes sense to start the letter now and add to it as years progress.
- Involve the child. The child deserves to have a voice in his or her life and they will appreciate being able to participate in important decisions.
- Record everything about the child. The Letter of Intent is the chance to let others know about a child’s personality, their likes and dislikes, and strengths and weaknesses.
- Not legally binding. There is no legal obligation to follow everything in the letter, so if legally enforced directions are needed, a lawyer should draw up a more formal document.
- Don’t skip the difficult decisions. The letter should include what the client wants for the child’s end-of-life care, including funeral arrangements.
See Tom Nawrocki, Letter of Intent: A Useful Component of An Estate Plan, Life Health Pro, June 3, 2014.
Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.