A Quick Guide To Making A Letter Of Instruction
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Is it rare for anyone to want to take a moment and commit to wondering about what will happen to all of their stuff when they die?
The thing is, every one we leave behind benefits a great deal from us taking a moment to plan out how they should handle our last and final wishes.
Article Quick Navigation Links:
- Make A Letter Of Instruction Work For You
- The Best Plan To Structuring A Good Letter Of Instruction
- Letter of Instruction: Things you didn’t know you didn’t know
- How To Organize Your Funeral Wishes With A Letter Of Instruction
- Get Our FREE Quick Starter Guide for Estate Planning Worth Over $1000 In Value!
Make A Letter Of Instruction Work For You
It is a personally prepared document, and it does not make sense to pay someone like an attorney to advise you on how to prepare one.
Whatever is not in your will should be in a letter of instruction. You would want to include a copy with your will.
Everyone that you care about has questions about what is going to happen with your stuff. Your niece may have her eye on the big beautiful mirror in the hallway outside of your bedroom.
Your sons may have their eyes on your tool set. There’s only one tool set so who should get what?
Think of this as something that you write out over time. It would be a lot for anyone to ask themselves to organize a single aspect of their life into a letter.
Also, you should have at least 3 copies safely stored in 3 separate locations. The following are common examples of where they can be distributed:.
- In an online server with your other digitally stored estate documents.
- A safe deposit box or filing cabinet.
- With a trustworthy individual like your executor, your spouse, a family member, a close friend, attorney, or advisor of some sort.
The most important thing to remember is to make sure that you have prepared and shared this document with your executor prior to your death so that it can be acted on efficiently.
As an example, if you are still employed when you die, would it be a bad idea for your executor to have a copy of this with specific instructions to contact your employer?
After all, your benefits that you worked so hard to accumulate for your loved ones are now ready to be dispersed to make sure they are okay.
The Best Plan To Structuring A Good Letter Of Instruction
This is not a legally binding estate planning document. It is the same thing as what’s called a “letter of intent”
Here is a basic list of what should be in it when you write one.
- Identifying the location of your assets along with their values.
- Do not try to force anyone to do anything because it’s not legally enforceable.
- Do not write it in a way to try to replace a will.
- Include a to do list for final expenses.
- Bequeath a description of your personal morals, ethics, and values to your loved ones. It is the perfect opportunity to direct your last words to specific individuals.
- Assign small personal items with sentimental value in your house or in storage to whomever is in this document.
- Describe the location of important files and contacts to assist the executor in the process of executing on managing the estate.
- Describe where and how you want to be buried.
- A memorable obituary that you prepared for publishing.
- List all of your online accounts and passwords or the location of where they are stored.
Letter of Instruction: Things you didn't know you didn't know
So, the purpose is to communicate in your language an exact step by step guide for your executor to follow. This will be as if you were sitting there in the room walking him/her through how to do and what to do with your family.
It should advise the executor on a way to manage expectations regarding working with any professional advisors, attorneys, accounts, brokers, consultants, and partners that you have.
Also, it should allow you an opportunity to advise the executor on wrapping up any loose ends that you may have unfinished business with.
For example: If you tend to leave emergency cash hidden around the house, it would be ideal to reveal your hiding places in this document.
If you have pets or plants or anything left behind that requires immediate care, then you will want to describe what to do for immediate care here.
You can add what’s called a codicil to your will that legally binds the executor to follow through on your instructions.
The problem with a codicil in a will is that it takes time to probate a will.
First you find the will, then file the will along with a petition at the local courthouse in the resident county of the deceased. Then the county goes through their process of filing the will and reaching out to all parties in the will.
This takes up to several weeks.
So instead of waiting for your executor to take care of something written in the codicil from the will that requires immediate attention, you would include all of the urgent instructions here with actionable steps to be taken right away.
The reason you would still include these same instructions in the will is to make them legally binding to protect something with your last wishes. It is still important to replicate these last wishes in the letter of instructions to make sure your executor has a chance to act immediately if necessary.
How To Organize Your Funeral Wishes With A Letter Of Instruction
This document is the ideal document to describe how you want your funeral or cremation to be handled. Tell your executor if you want to be buried or cremated.
Describe how you hope for the memorial service to be held.
Where will the location be? Any specific vendors you recommend for things like flowers?
The letter of instruction can be used to let your loved ones know who you may or may not want to speak at your service. What would you like the speaker at your service to share with everyone during your eulogy?
Many times the best advice on what should be shared is a family story, a work story, and a community story from the neighbors/church/ some other community organization that you were affiliated with.
Do not forget to continuously update this document. There are no requirements for how this should be prepared.
In theory, you can prepare a handwritten copy of this document entirely on anything that you’d like. Would it be a bad idea to just provide you with an outlined template that will guide you in organizing everything?
We have created a free guide below this section for you to download. Leave a comment below or contact us right away and ask us to help you with it!
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About the author
Victor Vega has over a decade of experience in working with individuals regarding their personal finances after starting in 2007 at Merrill Lynch as a financial advisor. I started Garden Mutual in 2020 so that you could have access to an insurance agent that puts your interests first! As an independent agent, I work with over 20 carriers. This means that my loyalty is to my customer and not any one particular insurance company. Let me provide you with objective information that you can use to pick the best insurance policy for yourself today. We are always looking to improve ourselves for your benefit!
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