An estate plan consists mostly of documents that are legally binding, and this is important when it comes to procedures such as probate and the disposition of assets. However, not every document in your estate plan needs to be a legal document.
While it is optional, you may find that it is beneficial to include a personal statement of intent in your estate plan. This document is not legally binding, but you and your heirs may find that it is valuable nonetheless. Kiplinger explains what this statement can do and why you should consider including it.
1. It can give instructions or explanations that would be inappropriate to include in a will
A will is not a place for giving instructions about the care of your assets or explanations of why you bequeathed property the way you did. A personal statement can add clarity and context to a will without muddying the document with a lot of details that the law would consider extraneous but that it might be important for your heirs to know.
For example, perhaps you have a beloved pet that requires particular care. Your will could identify the individual whom you wish to assume ownership over the animal and responsibility for its well-being, while a personal statement could outline the particulars of its care.
2. It may help to prevent will contests
Perhaps you intend to distribute your assets unevenly among your children. You may have good reasons to do so, and a personal statement of intent can explain your rationale to your heirs. Knowing the reasons behind your decision may help to smooth over any lingering hurt feelings over a perceived show of favoritism in your estate plan.
3. It is private
A will becomes a matter of public record following the probate process. However, a personal statement of intent does not become a publicly registered document. This means that you get to stipulate who gets to see it and who does not.
An estate plan is customizable. You can choose to include whatever documents you feel are appropriate to your situation.