Creating a comprehensive estate plan often includes drafting, executing, and coordinating a wide array of legal documents and paperwork. Most components of your estate plan are formal legal documents; however, there is one addition that you may elect to include that is not as formal – a letter of instruction. Creating a letter of instruction can serve a number of useful purposes in your estate plan. If you are unfamiliar with what a letter of instruction is a brief overview may help you decide if you should include one in your estate plan.
If is important to stress that a letter of instruction carries no legal weight, meaning that anything you include in the letter is not legally binding. It can, however, accomplish a number of goals and provide some very useful information to loved ones and family members when you die.
A letter of instruction is, as the name implies, an informal letter that you include with your other estate planning documents. Consider it your opportunity to include anything important or helpful that wasn’t included elsewhere in your estate plan. Some common inclusions in a letter of instruction include:
- List of assets and location – your Last Will and Testament decides who will receive which assets when you die but it doesn’t indicate where those assets are located. A simple list including all assets and their location can be very helpful to your executor.
- Password list – in today’s digital age everything is password protected. Providing a list saves time and frustration.
- Document locations – your executor will need to the deed to the house, titles to vehicles, life insurance policies and other important documents.
- Contact list – providing names and contact information for people such as your attorney, accountant, real estate agent, insurance agent, and anyone else that may be needed during the probate of your estate can be very helpful
- Funeral information – this could be as simple as the name of the funeral home or as elaborate as instructions for the entire service and burial.
- Heirloom wishes – if you have special items, such as family heirlooms, that you did not gift by name in your Will, this is your opportunity to tell your family and loved ones who you wish to have those items when you die.
If you do decide to include a letter of instruction in your estate plan be sure to provide a copy to your estate planning attorney and to a family member or loved one.
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