Sometimes we can get so caught up in the larger questions surrounding estate planning that we can miss many of the important details that will provide practical assistance to our families after we die. One of the best ways to provide certain types of information is not through a will, trust, or power of attorney, but rather through a letter of instruction. These letters allow you to provide your family and estate executor with relevant, pertinent, and useful information immediately after your death.
Tip 1: Your funeral.
As soon as you die your family will need to begin arranging for your funeral. You can use your letter of instruction to let your family know what kind of services you want or let them know about any pre-made arrangements you have. You can include very specific details such as who should officiate, who you want as pallbearers, or whether you wish to be cremated or buried.
Tip 2: Your finances.
A letter of instruction will also allow your executor to begin collecting your estate property as soon as possible. You should be very specific about the kinds of assets you own as well as the kind of debts your estate will have to pay. Include specific information such as account numbers, addresses of the financial institutions, and contact information for your accountant or attorney.
Tip 3: Your personal possessions.
Letters of instruction are also useful for dividing personal property not specifically covered in your will. Family heirlooms that have little monetary value can become sources of significant conflict. You can use your letter of instruction to direct not only who gets the property, but also add personal notes to your family and friends.
Estate planning portfolios prepared by our firm for our clients include sections where these and other important information can be conveniently added and later located.