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. is a partner with the firm of Law Offices of Robert J. Shanahan, Jr., LLC, 200 Rt. 31 North, Suite 207, Flemington, New Jersey, 08822. He concentrates his practice in estate planning, probate and elder law. He can be reached by telephone (908) 751-1551, or by email: [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. IF YOU NEED LEGAL COUNSEL, PLEASE CONTACT OUR OFFICE OR AN ATTORNEY OF YOUR CHOOSING, OR CALL YOUR LOCAL COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION FOR A REFERRAL.