California Estate Planning: The Explanatory Letter

When it comes to Estate Planning in California, most people start with a basic Last Will and Testament, commonly known simply as a Will. Estate Planning is the process of declaring who you want to legally inherit your estate (your property, including belongings, homes, and vehicles) and your assets (your remaining money) after you pass away. A Will is the bedrock of Estate Planning because it covers a wide range of topics, including electing guardians for your children and choosing an executor for your estate.

Within your Will, you name the beneficiaries of your estate and what exactly they will be receiving. You can divide specific items from your estate in addition to percentages of your assets. A Will is a legally binding document which is written by a lawyer and becomes publicly available after your death. Since a Will is a concise legal document, there is little opportunity to explain the decisions that you have made. A good option for detailing your choices is creating an Explanatory Letter.

An Explanatory Letter is a separate document that can be included in your Estate Plan in California if you so desire. It is not legally binding, but rather a place where you can speak directly to those included (or excluded) in your Estate Plan. There is no real danger that your Explanatory Letter will legally affect your Will, so you are permitted to speak as freely as you would like in it.

Most people create an Explanatory Letter to explain to their loved ones why they included them in the Will and what they left them. You can tell your loved ones how much you care about them and include personal details if you so desire. You can include instructions for things left behind, such as how to take care of a pet or any specific quirks of a vehicle. You can also leave instructions for how to access your digital assets and what you would like to happen with them. You can, of course, also use an Explanatory Letter to explain to a loved one why they were excluded from your Estate Plan.

Another item you can choose to create is known as an Ethical Will. An Ethical Will is a document that outlines the morals, values, and ethics you hold that shaped your life. It is basically your best option for imparting wisdom to those who outlive you. It can include personal history and experiences that shaped your values. It is a great option to pass on knowledge to your loved ones.

Since an Explanatory Letter and an Ethical Will are both not legally binding, they can be created in any form you desire: a letter, video, or recording. They are both great options to add a personal touch to your Estate Plan and help ease the sorrow of your loved ones. For help creating an Estate Plan in California, contact Solan, Park & Robello today. We believe in caring for you, and that starts in bridging your present to your future.

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Solan, Park & Robello

Solan, Park & Robello is a full-service probate and estate planning firm offering experienced counsel in a wide range of estate planning matters—from preparation to administration to litigation.

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