RobertShanahan_FS16_PhotoEmblem

You’ve done the “right thing”, “stepped up to the plate”, and have signed a Last Will and Testament. You have protected your heirs, named an Executor, appointed a guardian for your kids, and maybe did some estate tax planning. When you die, everything will be set. Well, maybe.

There are things which do not get covered in the Last Will. Think about it. Who should be notified? What are your funeral plans? Where are your assets? There are details about you that are easily missed by overwhelmed family members. The solution? Write a letter of instruction.

A letter of instruction is a legally non-binding document from you which fills in the missing, important information your family will need. The letter can contain anything you wish, but certainly you should consider the following:

  • A list of people who should be contacted when you die, along with their contact information;
  • The passwords and PIN numbers for all of your online banking or other important sites;
  • A list of contact information for lawyers, financial advisors, insurance agents, employee benefit departments, accountants, veteran benefits, etc;
  • Instructions for your funeral or memorial service;
  • A list of credit cards and contact addresses;
  • Location of all assets, including real estate, and safe deposit boxes;
  • Location of all important documents, like your Will, life insurance policies, annuity contracts, deeds, birth certificate, veteran’s discharge papers, and the like; and
  • Personal messages to family members.

The letter should list anything which would make it easier on your family when they handle your affairs. Once written, keep it with your important papers, but let your family know where it is.


Robert J. Shanahan, Jr. Esq. focuses his practice in estate planning, elder law and probate matters. Mr. Shanahan additionally practices in business law and non-profit matters. He is a trained, experienced mediator and offers dispute resolution services, particularly for those arising from probate and elder law matters. Additionally, Mr. Shanahan’s firm, Shanahan & Voigt, LLC, offers a breadth of additional services to families and businesses throughout central New Jersey.

Mr. Shanahan received his Juris Doctor from the Temple University School of Law in 1985, and obtained licensure in New Jersey in the same year.  He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in History in 1981 from William Paterson University, with honors. Robert is a member and Past President of the Hunterdon County Bar Association, and is a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association, and its Elder Law and Disability Section.  He is also active in the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Robert is a member of the Hunterdon Medical Center’s Bio Ethics Committee and was awarded a Five Star Financial Services Professional Award for 2016.

You may contact Bob at (908) 751-1551, or [email protected]


THE INFORMATION CONTAINED HEREIN IS MERELY AN EDUCATIONAL SERVICE TO PROVIDE BASIC, GENERAL INFORMATION AND IS NOT LEGAL ADVICE OF ANY SORT. FURTHER, BY EXPLORING THIS INFORMATION, YOU UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP IS BEING FORMED.