Nothing like a pandemic to get one pondering the fragility of life and health. That’s certainly a sentimentmany clients have been expressing to us in phone and teleconference meetings. Of course, our attorneys at Geyer Law stand ready to help you review and perhaps make changes to your estate plan (in consideration of the two newest pieces of legislation, namely the 2019 SECURE and the 2020 CARES Act). Meanwhile, we recommend a positive way to use your extra “forced thinking time”: Create (or revise if you’ve already done this) your own Letter of Intent.
Letters of intent, as Maine estate planning attorney Jesse Bufulco explains, are not legally binding and do not replace your need for a will, trust, powers of attorney, and other documents. The Letter is simply meant to complement your formal documents, making matters easier for your survivors.
What sorts of things can go into a Letter of Intent?
Preferences for funeral arrangements:
- What individuals need to be contacted when you pass? (Work on gathering contact information for each – email addresses, phone numbers, etc.)
- What type of service would you want – Formal ceremony with eulogy by clergy? Celebration of life with guests sharing impromptu memories?
- Do you want to specify charities to which you invite guests to contribute?
- Which professionals have been your advisors? (Gather contact information for these advisors, who can help your survivors identify accounts (both online accounts and investment and banking accounts you have).
- Where do you keep your documents? Prepare list of locations for birth certificate, social security information, marriage/divorce/adoption papers, military papers, deeds and mortgage documents.
- What are the user names and passwords for email, phone and other devices, social media accounts?
- Which of these do you want simply closed, and which contain information you want your heirs to have (photo collections, other important documents?)
- Are there items of sentimental value you want to leave to specific people?
Ask yourself: If I could speak at my own funeral, what would I say to the people who had come to celebrate my life? In addition to all the lists mentioned above, the essence of your Letter of Intent should be expressed in terms of expressing gratitude and love towards those with whom you’ve shared your life.
There’s nothing like enforced social distancing to get one thinking about loved ones. A Letter of Intent is the tell-them-yourself part of estate planning!
– by Cara M. Chittenden, Associate Attorney with Rebecca W.Geyer & Associates