You see this in lots of movies when someone has died…the reading of their will or estate plan to a room of loved ones. While this might be the formal document that gets read, the one that carries perhaps the greatest value is the “Letter” that comes from the recently deceased loved one. What is in that letter?
The legal name for this document is “Letter of Instruction” and it can be created and used in a variety of ways. It can be an incredibly valuable component to any Estate Strategy since it is an informal document that gives your loved ones important information about personal and financial matters when you are gone. It isn’t necessarily legally binding, nor is it intended to be. It is designed to complement all the other legal documents that are part of your Estate Strategy and that you have so meticulously had created to carry out your wishes and desires.
Due to the informal nature of this document, it often changes frequently after creation and is designed to stay up to day with the changes in your life. Before I share with you some of the key components you might want to include, let me also expand your thinking a bit on the form of this “document.”
In today’s digital world, it is probably easier to create a video or even a voice recording of what used to go into writing in your letter. It is much more personal when someone can see (or hear) you talking to them. While the contents might not change, the presentation and emotion will when it is you speaking to them as if you were still there. Something to consider in our new digital world. Now for the list of a few items to consider in your letter, video, or recording…
- FUNERAL AND BURIAL INSTRUCTIONS… One thing you may want to include in your communication is information about your funeral and burial arrangements. Let your loved ones know if there are any plans you’ve already made, or what your wishes are as this can be very beneficial to grieving family members. Information about the type of funeral service you’d like, including who should officiate the service and special things to be included like music selections, can be a part of your letter of instruction. If you prefer to be cremated rather than buried, be sure to include that in your letter. Another helpful inclusion would be a list of people you want to be contacted when you pass, and contact information if available. You may also include your wishes for donations to specific charities in your memory if that’s something you want to do.
- FINANCIAL INFORMATION… Information about your bank accounts, assets you hold title to, and other accounts can greatly help family members when trying to carry out the provisions of your estate plan. These are generally listed in your Estate Strategy but having a handy reference list for immediate use is incredibly helpful during this time. Be sure to include names and phone numbers of professionals who can help locate your accounts. The location of other important documents should also be included and could include such items as birth certificates, social security account information or statements, marriage license, divorce documents, and military paperwork. And don’t forget about the information related to mortgages and other debts…especially if they are in need of being paid on a regular basis.
- DIGITAL INFORMATION…Today, many of our accounts have transitioned to the digital world. It is now more important than ever to leave behind information about your digital assets so they can be monitored and checked. Be sure to include usernames and passwords for digital accounts, social media accounts, and the devices themselves. One helpful hint is to have all your passwords in one main account with one key password to access this account. Give them this master password and they can easily access all the other information…it really helps so you don’t forget about any of your accounts.
- PERSONAL ITEMS…Your personal items can be a great source of joy and also contention among family members when you pass away. Providing specific details about who will receive personal effects, including collections, important personal items, and other things that may not have monetary value, but do have sentimental value is one of the most important parts of this process. Also include instructions for your pets you may leave behind. It is also a great section to leave behind some final wisdom or inspiration for your loved ones, including more specifics about your wishes and hopes for the future of each of your loved ones. It may be one of the last chances you get to tell them all how much you love them and how proud of them you are…lots of great things can go into this part.
This time can be of great comfort, peace, and inspiration during a time of grief. Don’t make it super technical because all that is handled (or should be handled) in your Estate Strategy. Think of this as the very creative and decorative icing on top of the cupcake. This is what really makes the cupcake worth eating and can also make a great ending for you when you’re gone.
If you have any further questions about any one of these items, please feel free to ASK ME A QUESTION and I’ll give you some insight and direction in that area. And if you ever want to just sit down and chat about any of these issues or need help putting this together, just CONTACT ME and we can arrange a time to meet.