Letters of Intent–why your child or pet needs you to complete one

If you have started the process of planning for the future of your loved ones if something should happen to you, then congratulations, you have taken responsible steps that many people—estate planning attorneys included—have avoided taking.  You are probably thinking most about who would care for your children, even pets, if you can’t.  So, you decide on a guardian, or caregiver for your pets, and hopefully two successors.  You name them in your will.  Don’t stop there.

Do your guardian or caregiver, and especially your children or pets, the favor of easing their transition to this new life without you by completing a “letter of intent,” or caregiver guide.  A “letter of intent” gives information and details to your guardian or caregiver about everything from daily routines to hopes for the future.  Everything from food likes and dislikes, doctor names and extracurricular activities, to hopes for education, thoughts on values and religion.

“Letters of intent” for pets (sometimes called Caregiver Guides) detail health history, food preferences, and allergies.  Explain how the pet lived (crated at night or not?  Walked on a leash or more accustomed to fenced-in yard?), thoughts on parameters with euthanasia, and other aspects of the pet’s life.

The most important subject for a “letter of intent,” however, might be a child with special needs.  For many children with special needs, routine and familiarity are critical.  Children on the autism spectrum can struggle with the most minor change (a subjective term) in their day or routine.  Replicating a child’s routine as much as possible might reduce stress for a child with disabilities in adjusting to a different house, different people, different sounds and surroundings.  A “letter of intent” would give a guardian a greater ability to provide the things necessary to help the child cope, particularly by continuing the child’s daily routine.

If you have any questions about preparing your own letter of intent for the care of your loved ones, email me at julie@juliemillslaw.com.

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