Author Topic: Writing a 'Letter of Intent' to minor children's guardians in our will  (Read 4921 times)

shelivesthedream

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We are finally actually getting round to doing our wills and appointing guardians and trustees in the event of us both dying and our toddler and nearly-cooked baby surviving us. I have read about letters of intent/instruction/wishes as a nonbinding document expressing our wishes about how our children should be brought up and how the trust should be used. Obviously I don't want to write some massive tome, but it seems like it would be helpful to have a short letter so that the guardians/trustees could feel more confident in their choices and we can state our priorities.

However, I'm a bit at sea as to what to include. We'd like our children to be brought up in accordance with our religion, and I guess we should include something about how we would like them to be educated (although I don't really know what we would say), but I don't know what else it might be helpful to include. I'd like to be guiding but not prescriptive, iyswim, as obviously we are choosing guardians who are generally in accord with our beliefs/lifestyle and who we trust to make good choices.

Chris Pascale

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Re: Writing a 'Letter of Intent' to minor children's guardians in our will
« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2019, 09:52:20 AM »
SEE ATTACHED redacted version of mine.

I update it about once a year, sometimes less, and send it to the guardian and executor. My older daughters also read it and provide input, too.

Do not be offended when the guardian and executor do not initially read it. They likely will not unless you follow up. One said to me, "I thought it was just for me to have, not something that could be changed," to which I said that since they'd be actually doing all the stuff, we need it to be something they agree with. Another asked "what if they get scholarships? Can they go to a private college, then?" to which we discussed if they meant actual scholarships, or the tuition discounts all colleges build into their overpriced rates, and I then clarified that they can go to a private college if it costs what a public one would at full tuition.

shelivesthedream

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Re: Writing a 'Letter of Intent' to minor children's guardians in our will
« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2019, 11:05:39 AM »
Wow, thank you! That's pretty intense. Do you mind me asking how old your children are? They seem like they must be in their mid-teens?

Certainly some things I never would have thought to go into. Food for discussion with Mr SLTD for sure.

Chris Pascale

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Re: Writing a 'Letter of Intent' to minor children's guardians in our will
« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2019, 11:44:40 AM »
Wow, thank you! That's pretty intense. Do you mind me asking how old your children are? They seem like they must be in their mid-teens?

Certainly some things I never would have thought to go into. Food for discussion with Mr SLTD for sure.

I have 4 daughters. They are now 8-18.

I started this about 5 years ago, so have had time to think through things as time has gone by, and the older girls, the guardian, and executor have posed a question or two that have been helpful.

What got me going with this was that my original choice for guardian said, in response to me letting him know I had a $500k life insurance policy (now it's a million), was "that's good for their college," which made me realize that he would definitely - with the best of intentions - spend $500k on bachelor's degrees. He ended up being unable to take on the responsibility for personal reasons.

When I told my next choice my financial situation, he said, "ok, I'll make it work," like he was just going to get the money, buy a bigger house to raise them in, etc. I sent he and his wife the document and put them in touch with the executor, and that helped them see that they weren't on their own to figure it all out, but they later got divorced.

Now that my girls are older, and we live close to my mother, who is still young and very active, she is the primary choice. She personally hates anything dealing with death, and that includes my plans for this unlikely situation, but has been good about reviewing it the 2 times I've sent it to her.

cchrissyy

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Re: Writing a 'Letter of Intent' to minor children's guardians in our will
« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2019, 12:06:48 PM »
I have a letter like this. It's for teens not little ones like yours.  This is above and beyond what the legal docs say. Just something I chose to write after doing it all properly, and which i update quarterly. 
I can't post it here but it's written as bullet points structured like so
 
- where to find the legal docs
- my medical wishes if incapacitated
- custody info if incapacitated
- how to manage my financial life while incapacitated
- if i die custody stuff
- if i die short term money stuff.  this one goes into great detail of insurance and accounts and social security survivor benefits and what assets to sell and what to keep
- if I die long run philosophy of getting money to kids
- misc long run thoughts about paying for things like higher education, study abroad, cars, weddings, etc and the possibility of not going to college
- a page of important contact info and an intro line about each person. lawyers. family friends. landlord. all the kids doctors and case managers. my most frequent passwords.

MoseyingAlong

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Re: Writing a 'Letter of Intent' to minor children's guardians in our will
« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2019, 12:11:05 PM »
Chris,

Thanks so much for sharing. This is wonderful and provides much food for thought.

SLTD,

One of the "emergency binder" templates I reviewed had suggestions for more personal, not financial matters. Such as family traditions around birthdays or holidays. Notes about the children's favorite music, movies, games, etc. Memories that might be shared with them by the guardians.  A little bit to not as much of the connections to their parents.
« Last Edit: December 11, 2019, 12:15:12 PM by MoseyingAlong »

Dee18

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Re: Writing a 'Letter of Intent' to minor children's guardians in our will
« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2019, 07:24:56 PM »
The only issue I imposed/asked of my child’s potential guardian was that he not move my child from our home for at least a year.  This was a pretty big ask as he lives 1000+ miles away, but he agreed.  (He said the odds of my dying were so small he would take that risk.). And I asked him to say only nice things about me.  :)   Other than that I felt that being a parent or guardian is a hard enough job that one should be given great freedom to do it.

Chris Pascale

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Re: Writing a 'Letter of Intent' to minor children's guardians in our will
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2019, 08:54:40 PM »
SEE ATTACHED redacted version of mine.

I update it about once a year, sometimes less, and send it to the guardian and executor. My older daughters also read it and provide input, too.

Do not be offended when the guardian and executor do not initially read it. They likely will not unless you follow up. One said to me, "I thought it was just for me to have, not something that could be changed," to which I said that since they'd be actually doing all the stuff, we need it to be something they agree with. Another asked "what if they get scholarships? Can they go to a private college, then?" to which we discussed if they meant actual scholarships, or the tuition discounts all colleges build into their overpriced rates, and I then clarified that they can go to a private college if it costs what a public one would at full tuition.

Since you mention SUNY/state schools, it appears you are in the US.

Are you/your spouse not eligible for social security?  The survivor benefits for your kids would be substantial, and those would continue until each child reaches 18 or graduates from high school.  Maybe not relevant in your case, but something anyone else in the US would want to consider.

Have to admit, I know nearly nothing about survivor benefits from SS.

Thanks for mentioning.

Knapptyme

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Re: Writing a 'Letter of Intent' to minor children's guardians in our will
« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2019, 09:46:55 PM »
SEE ATTACHED redacted version of mine.

I update it about once a year, sometimes less, and send it to the guardian and executor. My older daughters also read it and provide input, too.

Do not be offended when the guardian and executor do not initially read it. They likely will not unless you follow up. One said to me, "I thought it was just for me to have, not something that could be changed," to which I said that since they'd be actually doing all the stuff, we need it to be something they agree with. Another asked "what if they get scholarships? Can they go to a private college, then?" to which we discussed if they meant actual scholarships, or the tuition discounts all colleges build into their overpriced rates, and I then clarified that they can go to a private college if it costs what a public one would at full tuition.

Since you mention SUNY/state schools, it appears you are in the US.

Are you/your spouse not eligible for social security?  The survivor benefits for your kids would be substantial, and those would continue until each child reaches 18 or graduates from high school.  Maybe not relevant in your case, but something anyone else in the US would want to consider.

Have to admit, I know nearly nothing about survivor benefits from SS.

Thanks for mentioning.

Do look into them. I have three kids. When the second one was on the way, I thought to do the responsible parent thing and get more life insurance. The rate seemed reasonable until they quadrupled it for very mild, infrequent epilepsy. (Life expectancy changes little with the condition statistically.)

Anyway, I looked into what would happen if I had no life insurance and worst possible scenario for my kids without me, but still with their mother. SS would pay double what we live on for them until the aforementioned milestones. Financially, they'd be better off with me dead. Yikes, but yay!?!

TL;DR My life insurance policy is the social safety net of SS.

cchrissyy

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Re: Writing a 'Letter of Intent' to minor children's guardians in our will
« Reply #9 on: December 12, 2019, 09:15:47 AM »
According to the social security website in my case the kids would each get $1237/month in survivor benefits if I die, with a family max of $3041.

It goes until age 18, or 19 if the kid is still in school, or 22 if they're disabled.

So yeah, a big thing to know when considering life insurance.

Chris Pascale

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Re: Writing a 'Letter of Intent' to minor children's guardians in our will
« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2019, 01:25:37 PM »
thanks @Knapptyme and @cchrissyy for this info, and for allowing me to share what I laid out for my kids.

On a related note, a relative told my wife she's inheriting everything if he dies. We tried to talk to him about our not-so-basic instructions, and sent it to him to review, but he said "in my will, you get everything. Take care of my kids with it."

We will, thankfully for them, but dude! Really? We're not even the guardians, just the folks inheriting - I'm guessing - hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Chris Pascale

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Re: Writing a 'Letter of Intent' to minor children's guardians in our will
« Reply #11 on: December 20, 2019, 09:29:55 AM »
@lumusislight I sent you a PM with it pasted in.

Hope it helps.

LiveLean

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Re: Writing a 'Letter of Intent' to minor children's guardians in our will
« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2020, 06:28:09 AM »
This is very helpful and a reminder that wife and I need to update our wills and get to this level of specificity.


lutorm

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Re: Writing a 'Letter of Intent' to minor children's guardians in our will
« Reply #13 on: January 09, 2020, 01:41:51 AM »
We put together a will recently specifically because if we both drop dead we want our (dual US/Swedish citizen) kid to be taken care of by my brother and his wife in Sweden. Apparently sending American kids to guardians abroad can be sensitive so it's important to have crystal clear instructions for this in the will. But it didn't occur to us to give them instructions for how do to it, at that point it'll be their job so it seems they should have freedom to do that as they best see fit.

Although now that I'm reading this thread, I agree that maybe it would be useful to write down our "principles of parenting" or something. Not to try to make it binding or anything but more to give the guardians some helpful guidance for the task that has just been dropped in their lap.