A Brief Overview of the Explanatory Letter

Once you have created all of the essential documents that should be included in a solid estate plan – including a Last Will and Testament, Living Trust, General Power of Attorney, and Advance Healthcare Directive, to name a few – you might find that some decisions and loose ends need to be clarified. Fortunately, there is a perfect opportunity to accomplish this through the explanatory letter (sometimes called a letter of instruction). This document is not legally binding and is meant as an informal complement to your straightforward, thorough estate-planning documents. 

What You Could Include In Your Explanatory Letter

There are seemingly endless items, thoughts, and sentiments that you can include in your explanatory letter. Some of the common ways estate planners use this form include:

An explanation why you gave a certain asset or piece of property to the beneficiary you chose. You could also clarify why you gave a certain amount of your liquid assets to one or more of your loved ones. 

Instructions for what to do with your animals or pets. You may also choose to address this issue in a pet trust. 

Information about where you kept keys to a safe or lockbox. This section could also include passwords for social media accounts, email addresses, and other digital assets. 

Suggestions for how to use assets or pieces of property that are meant to be shared among your children, grandchildren, and other loved ones. For example, you could attempt to persuade your kids to split time between your secluded cabin in the woods and, once every couple of years, have one large family vacation together. 

Contact information for accountants, financial advisors, or other professionals. 

Any parting sentiments, positive or negative, that you would like to impart on your survivors. 

The Explanatory Letter is Not Legally Binding

You have a great amount of flexibility with your explanatory letter, so feel free to get creative with it. However, never forget that the letter and any of its contents are not legally binding. Therefore, you should refrain from thinking that the explanatory letter is a substitute for any official estate-planning document. Furthermore, if anything in your explanatory letter contradicts any document in your estate plan, your beneficiaries might be somewhat confused.


If the prospect of passing away without having an estate plan is making you nervous about the future, you don’t have to worry anymore; simply get in touch with Luis E. Barreto & Associates, P.A. today to get started on a plan that works for you and your loved ones. Call the firm at 305-358-1771 for a free initial consultation; you can always get in touch with us here.

Written by Luis E. Barreto

Luis E. Barreto

Luis is a probate and guardianship litigator with over 23 years of experience in the field. Determination of heirs, will contests, breaches of fiduciary duty, removal of personal representatives, guardians and trustees are just some of the types of litigation he addresses. In addition, he administers non-contested estates and guardianships.