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How a letter of instruction can help carry out a will

On Behalf of | Feb 19, 2024 | Estate Planning |

Simply creating a last will and testament should not be the only action you take to dictate who will inherit your property after you die. Even with a well-written will, your family and beneficiaries may still struggle to understand how to implement your decisions. Also, your will might lack information your relatives require.

Fortunately, writing a letter of instruction and attaching it to your will could solve these problems. This document is an informal supplement to your will. While it is not a legal document, it can offer guidance to your executor and your heirs.

Specify distribution of personal items

Items that do not have much value to them in terms of dollars and cents can still mean a lot to one or more of your relatives. Through a letter of instruction, you can establish who should get what so your family members do not fight over your plate collection or jewelry. This is also an opportunity to leave instructions for how to care for your pet.

List financial information

Dispersing your estate can be difficult if your heirs do not know where to locate your accounts and other assets. In a letter of instruction, you can list your bank and investment accounts with account numbers, as well as passwords, logins and PINs for accessing online accounts.

This is also a good time to provide contact information for your financial advisors and insurance agents. Essentially, you can create a roadmap to the estate for the executor.

Describe funeral arrangements

Your letter of instruction should also outline your funeral and memorial service preferences in detail. This includes type of service, officiant, music and readings.

The letter can also share if you prepaid your funeral arrangements and note the location of the burial plot deed. For cremation, your letter should state the desired placement of ashes. You can also specify charities to receive donations and your organ donation wishes.

Share personal messages

People sometimes contest a will because they feel angry or confused about why the testator made certain decisions. In your letter of instruction, you can leave a personal message explaining your choices. Also, you can provide some words of comfort that may help your family process their grief.

While a will ensures the appropriate distribution of your property, supplementing your will with a letter of instruction shares personal details and helpful logistics for a smoother inheritance process.