Hoping to Prevent a Family Dispute? Consider a Letter of Instruction
When individuals prepare a will, they are setting forth their wishes and intentions as to how their assets should be distributed upon their death. While a properly executed will is a legally binding document, a will cannot ensure that things will always go smoothly after you die. Far too often disagreements and disputes among family members arise once the contents of a will are disclosed. While many of these conflicts involve the specific terms of distribution set forth in the will, there are times when a family feud will surface over a matter that is not actually addressed in the will.
A letter of last instruction is a document that can help clarify your wishes and intentions for how you want your affairs to be handled upon your passing. While a letter of instruction is not a substitute for a will, nor is it a legally binding document, it can help prevent disputes by providing more specific guidance to family members and other people responsible for settling your affairs.
Every letter of instruction is unique. There are no set rules as to what you must address when you sit down to write this type of letter. Some of the more common areas covered in a letter of instruction include your funeral and burial arrangements, detailed information about your assets and finances, contact information for legal, financial and other professional advisors and more specific instructions (beyond your will) as to how your personal effects should be dispersed.
Like most people, you probably have a number of personal possessions that you would like to be given to particular individuals when you pass away. A letter of instruction can be used to supplement your will by listing the specific items you want to be passed on to family members and friends after you die. For instance, consider who you would want to receive your sentimental possessions, such as a cherished family photo album, a treasured picture hanging in your home or an heirloom piece of furniture that has been passed down through the family. A letter of instruction can help to avoid future disputes by giving your loved ones a better picture of how you want these and other specific possessions to be dispersed upon your death.
While a letter of instruction can go a long way in preventing future family feuds and disagreements, conflicts can still arise even when a will has been supplemented with this kind of letter. These types of disputes tend to be very emotionally charged and can destroy even the strongest of families. Should you find yourself embroiled in a serious disagreement over the last wishes and intentions of a loved one who has passed away, you should discuss your situation with an experienced will contest attorney. These cases can be very challenging to litigate and are best handled by a team of lawyers who have the skills, knowledge and resources necessary to litigate complex estate and inheritance disputes.