Today our blog focuses on understanding estate planning in Oklahoma and Kansas. We are going to look at the Letter of Instruction. In an earlier discussion, we looked at the role an executor plays in the managing of your estate, and in protecting the decisions you have made through your estate plan. Choosing the right executor is vital to protecting your estate planning interests. Simply choosing the right executor is not the end of the process, however. To get the most out of your plan, you will also want to include a letter of instruction. To explain what a letter of instruction is, let’s take a look at some important ideas.
Your executor is responsible for managing your estate. When you create your estate plan, you might think this only involves going to probate court, proving the will is valid, and then distributing inheritances. While all true, there is much more to managing an estate than simply meeting the probate requirements imposed by the law.
Your executor will have to manage your property until such time as the property is transferred to the new owners. Whether those new owners are creditors, family members, charities, or someone else, it can take a long time to identify these people or organizations. In the meantime, your executor will need to know what you own, where it is, how to access it, and who to talk to about it. Wills don’t include this detailed information, and an executor who doesn’t have the important details will find his or her job much more difficult.
The Letter of Instruction
Letters of instruction are designed to allow you to pass on to your executor the important facts you left out of your will or other estate planning tools. Contact information, passwords, locations of important documents, and other similar details are all things people include in their letters of instruction. Because letters are informal, you can change them whenever you like and keep them up-to-date with all the important information your executor will need.
Letters and Legally Effective Tools
A letter of instruction is not a legally enforceable estate planning tool unless you have made it so by including the necessary language in your Trust. If you haven’t and your executor asks a court to enforce the decisions you include in your letter, the court will not do so.
While this might seem like a downside, it may be a benefit of letters of instruction because you don’t have to make them meet any specific legal standards. You do, however, need to make sure your letter of instruction works in conjunction with the legally enforceable estate planning tools you have created. A Trust can be especially beneficial in this regard.
For additional information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions about Letters of Instruction, contact an experienced estate planning attorney at Parman & Easterday by calling 405-843-6100 or 913-385-9400 to schedule your appointment today.