A letter of last instruction is a document that outlines funeral planning processes and arrangements. A letter of last instruction should not be confused with a will or testament, which is a legal document that expresses an individual’s wishes on how and to whom their estate should be transferred after their death.
On the other hand, a letter of last instruction does not pass through a legal process. It is an informal yet organized way of providing your family with a guide regarding the decisions related to financial and personal matters that should be made when you pass.
A letter of instruction can also serve as an alternative way of ensuring that your loved ones are catered for after your death and issues that could arise from not probating the will are prevented.
You do not need an attorney to prepare your letter of instruction. It can be prepared within the four corners of your room and as you desire. Note that the fact that this letter does not go through legal channels does not make it irrelevant.
Preparing it will relieve your relatives of additional frustration and stress after your death as it will provide crucial information on personal, financial, and funeral matters.
Now that you know what a letter of last instruction is and how important it is, now is the time to discuss preparing this letter.
Items to Include in Your Letter of Last Instruction
While preparing your letter of last instruction, remember to include the elements listed below.
This is the first essential aspect that must be included in your letter of instruction. The details that you should include are, e.g., your full name, date of birth, father’s name and mother’s maiden name, residential address, Social Security number, and place of birth.
Also include information about significant people in your life, such as your family, friends, business partners, clergy, and every other person you would like to notify about your death. Include their names, telephone numbers, and email addresses.
A List of Business and Financial Contacts
Your letter of last instruction should also include the contact information of your business and financial partners. Ensure you provide the contact details of your accountants and investment advisers, including information on your insurance policies as well as your bank accounts details.
Location of Legal Documents
Locating your important and legal documents after your death should not be for your loved ones like looking for a needle in a haystack.
Legal documents such as your will, income tax returns, marriage certificates, Social Security number, cards, birth certificates, trust agreements, title deeds, bills of lading, veterans benefits files, membership certificates to any lodges or fraternal organizations, deeds of trust, titles, contracts, etc. should be stored where they can be found easily after your death.
You can only ensure this when you list the location of those documents in your letter of last instruction. State exactly where the documents can be found, whether they are in a safety deposit box or a cabinet drawer.
Information About Loans and Debts
Create a list for all your creditors containing information regarding their full name, address, and contact number, collateral and payment terms, credit card account numbers, loan account numbers are located. Be sure to keep this information up-to-date.
Information on Debt Owed to You
Similarly, make a list of all the people who owe you money, including their full name, contact address, telephone number, collateral and payment terms, etc.
Computer Usernames and Passwords
We are now in the modern age, and most of us use computers for personal and official purposes. For these reasons, we often increase the security of our devices by setting up passwords and usernames, which may be only known to us.
In your letter of last instruction, ensure you also include the usernames and passwords to your online banking accounts, social media email, etc., as well as username and password to your computer, phones, and tablets so your executor or someone responsible for overseeing your estate can ensure your accounts and financial information are not breached after your death.
A List of Beneficiaries
Compile a list containing the names and contact details of all your beneficiaries with additional information on specific instructions you may wish to give to clarify your intentions on the distribution of your items.
Memorial Service and Funeral Arrangements
You should also include in your letter of last instruction information on your desires regarding your funeral arrangements. State the decisions you have already made about aspects such as the type of flowers, pictures, or music, but also the clothes in which you wish to be buried, the type of service and location, etc.
The Bottom Line
The truth is no one knows exactly when he or she is going to die. This is why you should not contemplate when to prepare your letter of last instruction. The actual time to write the letter is now!
As we discussed earlier, this letter does not need to go through any legal panel or other formal requirements, making it an easy document to prepare. Once you have written the letter, make sure your executor or at least a close family member knows where it can be found after your death.
Kindly note that writing your letter of last instruction should not end with the first draft. You should keep updating it as you live.
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