Adding an Explanatory Letter to Your Will

Adding an Explanatory Letter to Your Will


Your Last Will and Testament is a legal document designed to accomplish specific goals such as naming an executor for your estate, guardian for minor children, and beneficiaries to receive your assets.

For many people, leaving only a will delineating instructions may not feel like enough for your loved ones. Adding an explanatory letter to your Last Will and Testament gives you the opportunity to further explain the reasoning behind your decisions, without affecting the legal validity of the will itself.  Here are some topics you may want to address in an explanatory letter.

Gifts and Chosen Beneficiaries

Maybe you feel a bulleted list of assets with their intended beneficiaries is too impersonal. An explanatory letter gives you the space to write out your reasoning for giving an asset to a specific person. Do you want your brother to always remember the time you drove around the country in your RV? Are you worried your daughter may wonder why you chose to give your wedding ring to your son instead? An explanatory letter is your opportunity to expand on the “why” behind the “what.”

Disparities in Gifts

The perception of inequality is one of the most common inheritance disputes. If you left more of your estate to one beneficiary over another, you can use an explanatory letter to say why. Perhaps you provided more financial assistance to one child throughout the years or you believe one child needs the help most now. No matter the reason, an explanatory letter gives you the chance to quell potential family feuds.

Distribution of Shared Gifts

Your will might specify a split of your estate equally between children, but a standard will provides little space for directing how to accomplish this. An explanatory letter can give your executor suggestions for how to distribute your assets fairly. Remember, an explanatory letter is not legally binding, so your executor is not required to follow these suggestions. If you want a specific person to receive a particular asset, review your estate plan with your attorney to include it in your will.

Instructions for Shared Gifts

An explanatory letter can provide suggestions on how beneficiaries can accommodate splitting usage of shared property, such as a vacation home. You can recommend a strategy for who can use the property at specific times throughout the year as well as splitting management responsibility.

Pet Care Instructions

Similar to designating a guardian for minor children, you can also name a pet guardian in your will. Your explanatory letter can go into detail about your choice of pet guardian and include detailed instructions for the care of your beloved furry companion.

Final Remarks

Perhaps you had a particularly moving experience you want to share with your loved ones or have strong feelings – positive or negative – about a particular relative. An explanatory letter is your opportunity to make your sentiments known.

Writing an explanatory letter is one way to make your wishes and thoughts clear to your loved ones after you are gone, but it does not take the place of a legally binding estate plan. Contact a Fifth Third Bank financial advisor today to review your estate plan.

Fifth Third Bank does not provide tax or legal advice. Please consult your tax adviser or attorney before making any decisions or taking any action based on this information. This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute the rendering of tax or legal advice. Fifth Third Bancorp provides access to investments and investment services through various subsidiaries, including Fifth Third Securities. Fifth Third Securities is the trade name used by Fifth Third Securities, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker-dealer and a registered investment advisor registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training. Securities and investments offered through Fifth Third Securities, Inc. and insurance products: Are Not FDIC Insured | Offer No Bank Guarantee | May Lose Value Are Not Insured By Any Federal Government Agency | Are Not A Deposit Insurance products made available through Fifth Third Insurance Agency, Inc. © 2018 Fifth Third Bank Excerpt from Fifth Third Bank LegacyLink.