In a recent post, I briefly touched on an important, yet non-legal document called a Letter of Intent.  I wanted to give you more information on this document and how it can be used to help guide your loved ones when you die.

Basically, a Letter of Intent is a set of instructions for your family or personal representative designed to make the process of carrying out your wishes easier for your family.

There are varying details such as who will receive the letter and how long it will be, but it should include three sections:  what will happen immediately after your death, what will happen in the short term and what will happen in the long term.

Here is a brief overview of topics that may be included:

Immediate Concerns:

  • Organ Donation – If you plan to donate organs, identify the recipient organization.
  • Autopsy – if you have any preferences on an autopsy, specify them.
  • Funeral & Burial – Specify your wishes and describe any special details.
  • Obituary – Prepare a draft of your obituary.

Short Term Concerns:

  • Original Documents – indicate where your will/trusts are located and the executor.
  • Benefits – What government and employment benefits will your family benefit from?
  • Advisors – Name the professionals you work with in your business
  • Insurance – Detail all of your policies and contact information for your agent(s).
  • Employees – If you have employees, indicate suggestions for their continued employment or severance.
  • Unusual Dispositions – Unusual provisions such as leaving one child more than another may be explained here.  However, much caution should be used and professional advice is highly recommended.
  • Prior Marriages or Adoption – Indicate any obligations you have to former spouse(s) or children from a prior marriage.  Also indicate any children you have adopted into or out of your family and the legal status of those children.
  • Charitable Gifts – Outline charities to which you have made commitments and your wishes related to those commitments.
  • Safe Deposit Box – If you have one, identify where it is and who has access to it.

Long Term Concerns:

  • Prepare an Inventory – Write down your significant assets and liabilities along with values, location, ownerships and any other details.
  • Bailed Assets – Describe any assets in your possession that belong to another or vice versa and the details related to their return.
  • Your Residence – Describe any peculiar details and a list of your maintenance/repair companies.
  • Pets/Memorabilia  – If you don’t have close family, leave instructions regarding pets and family memorabilia.
  • Fiduciary Duties – if you are a fiduciary, make a note and provide the name of the person who will take over your duties.
  • Business Interests – Prepare a separate, confidential memorandum describing the business plan and guidance on what should be done with the business upon your death.
  • Intellectual Property – Authors/inventors will provide information regarding patents, copyrights or trademarks and the name of your attorney.
  • Professional Practice – If you own one, identify any other practitioner you would like to have take custody of your records.
  • Gift Programs – if you participate in gift programs, leave instructions as to how you would like ongoing participation to be handled.
  • Litigation – if you are involved in litigation, outline your thoughts and name the people who might be useful in the prosecution or defense of the case.

If you would like to prepare a Letter of Intent and have questions, please call our trusts and estates law firm in Newport Beach at (949) 260-1400.  The process can be tedious and labor intensive, and we are available to assist with any questions or concerns you may have.