Creating a will is a strong first step when it comes to estate planning. This document, even in its most basic terms, can be a powerful way to ensure that one’s estate is appropriately addressed after his or her death. When a will isn’t created, the distribution of one’s assets is handled in accordance with state law, which may not coincide with an individual’s wishes. This can lead to a lengthy and highly contested process that oftentimes pits family members against each other. This is one of the many reasons why Arizonans need to make sure their wills are clear and thorough.
There is another way to lend clarity to a will: by providing a letter of instructions. Although these document isn’t legal in nature, it can help address certain matters that are left untouched by a will, thereby ensuring that the estate administration process proceeds as smoothly as possible.
So what is typically included in one of these letters? One commonly addressed issue is how one wants his or her funeral to play out. It can specify whether a burial plot has already been secured, if cremation is preferred over burial, and whether organs and tissues are to be donated. These letters also provide information to make an estate administrator’s job easier. The physical locations of a will and assets that belong to the estate can be identified in the letter of instruction, and details about debts are often included. The letter of instruction can include contact information for heirs and beneficiaries, as well as institutions holding bank accounts. An individual can even leave final messages to loved ones in the letter and specify how a beloved pet should be cared for.
Although the letter of instruction isn’t a legal document, it can help provide cohesiveness to an estate plan. This, in turn, can make the estate administration process easier and provide closure and clarity to loved ones. Arizonans who are interested in learning more about wills, trusts, letters of instruction, and other aspects of estate planning can reach out to a legal professional who can help guide them through the process.