After you have taken the time to create a comprehensive estate plan, you should consider sitting down and writing an estate planning letter as well. An estate planning letter is a less formal addition to your plan that allows you to explain choices you made in your plan or to be more specific regarding you hopes and wishes for your gifts to beneficiaries.
Unfortunately, bickering among beneficiaries is far from uncommon after the death of a family member. While quarrelling about money is certainly common, family members also argue over small, personal gifts made by the decedent as well. One child may be hurt that a family heirloom was left to a sibling, for example, instead of to him or her. An estate planning letter offers you the opportunity to explain why you made the decisions you made.
Your letter can also give you the chance to explain what you wish a beneficiary to do with a gift. For example, if you left a collection of coins to a beneficiary and you wish them to be passed down to future generations; you can say so in your letter. Of course there is no guarantee that your wishes will be followed, but at least you have the ability to express those wishes in an estate planning letter.
Once you have drafted your estate planning letter, make sure that you include a copy with your other estate planning documents and that you provide a copy to your attorney.
The Law Offices of Barton P. Levine is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.