What’s a Letter of Instruction & Do I need one?

written by California living trust attorney Carmen Rosas.

I had a client ask me the other day about whether or not he needed to have a Letter of Instruction (LOI) in addition to his estate plan. The answer to his question- it depends. (of course, right?)

A LOI is a letter that you leave behind for your heirs, the executor of your will or trustees, giving guidance and instructions for settling your estate. Its purpose is to add detail about your wishes that isn’t included in your will or in other parts of your estate plan – and to address assets and belongings that aren’t addressed in your will or trust, which usually deals only with items of substantial value, such as real estate and other significant assets.

In our estate plans, we include all the essential documents as well as personal property declarations, burial/cremation instructions, and sample letters that you can write to your children (these are different from the LOI).

So, what it comes down to is whether or not your estate plan includes sufficient detail for your loved ones.

A letter of instruction can include:

  • the location of house, car, safe keys
  • burial/cremation arrangements
  • personal property assignments
  • where your pending bills are located
  • contact info for your attorney, financial advisors, tax people, etc.
  • location of your estate plan, important documents, financial statements
  • your wishes regarding how your heirs/beneficiaries should use their inheritance
  • location of your social media and online accounts login

Just like your estate plan, this document should be updated regularly to reflect your wishes. However, unlike an estate plan, a LOI does not have the same legal authority, so be sure that the LOI is simply a supplement to your estate plan.

If you have any questions or want to schedule a FREE 30 minute strategy planning meeting, give us a call at 650-503-3770. We offer services throughout California via in person (San Jose Office or Redwood City Office) or via a virtual Skype meetings.

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