Legacy Planning Documents You Can Use

Legacy planning is the process of deciding how your remaining assets will be distributed upon your passing. As you go through the legacy planning process, an attorney may help you draft several different types of documents that help with this.

Last Will and Testament

A last will and testament is colloquially referred to simply as a "will." This is one of the most common legacy planning documents, and you'll likely draft a will even if you have other documents too.

The purpose of a last will and testament is to direct whoever is managing the disbursement of your assets (which is usually an executor). The will is a legally binding document that instructs the person on how to pay off your remaining debts, and what assets are directed to what entities. Those entities could be individuals, businesses, or organizations.


A trust is a more complex legacy planning document that may be used to protect assets. Depending on the structure of a trust, it could preserve an asset as-is, allow an individual to access asset-generated revenues but not sell the asset, or shield assets from certain legal and tax issues.

You might draw up a trust if you have a historic family property that you want to be preserved. A will also might be useful if you have extensive assets that you'd like to shield from certain legal risks.

Because a trust is a more complex legacy planning document, you should discuss this option with an attorney who specializes in estate planning. An attorney will be able to tell you whether a trust indeed can help you achieve your goals, and they can write one with all of the necessary legal terminologies if you decide to go ahead with a trust.

Letter of Intent

A letter of intent is a brief document that conveys your wishes for how personal and financial matters are to be handled upon your passing. This type of letter isn't legally binding like a will or trust is, and other documents supersede a letter. Nonetheless, having a letter among your legacy planning documents can be helpful.

First, a letter of intent can serve as a brief summary of your will. The letter could detail the basics of your will, and especially the immediate information that your loved ones need to know. They can read the letter quickly to immediately get the most essential information, and pour over your will at a later time.