If you have drafted a will, that is definitely a step in the right direction. However, if you have created a comprehensive estate plan that provides for the disposition of all of your assets in a way that is meaningful to you, that is even better. Even if you have done either or both of these things, there is still something that you may have overlooked which could be very useful to your family as they settle your affairs after your passing. A letter of instruction can provide your family with the information that they need in order to take care of your personal business after you die.
While a letter of instruction is not a legal document, families of deceased individuals whose loved ones were thoughtful enough to write one can attest to their usefulness. While you are alive, you go through each day knowing what the passwords are for all of your online accounts, where all of your important documents are located, how many bank accounts you have, and so on. Even if your spouse or other family members know some things about your day to day affairs, they are unlikely to know everything about your personal business. A letter of instruction can provide all of this information to your loved ones, at a time when they need it most. It can also ensure that they do not have to spend any time searching for the information that they need while they are mourning your loss.
Some of the things that you may want to include in your letter of instruction are the location of your will and other estate planning documents, a list of any life insurance policies that you own, information about where the life insurance policy documents are located, a list of the people that you want to be notified of your passing, information about any safe deposit boxes that you have, the locations of all of your bank accounts and investment accounts, and a list of your debts. This list is not by any means exhaustive, because the things that you should include in your letter of instruction depend largely upon your unique circumstances. For example, if you are currently in the military or you are a veteran, you would want to include information about who to contact regarding your health insurance, veteran’s benefits, and other items regarded to your service. In short, think about the things that your loved ones will need to do to settle your final affairs and provide the information that they will need to do them.
Once you have your letter of instruction written, do not place it somewhere without telling anyone, assuming that they will know where to find it when the time comes. Give one copy to your attorney, one to your spouse, and one to each of your adult children. Inform them that they are not to open it until you pass away, and that they must keep it in a safe location. If you have concerns about your sensitive personal information getting into the wrong hands, limit the number of people that you distribute it to, perhaps only giving a copy to your spouse and your attorney.
While a letter of instruction is not a legal document, it is a very helpful document that all people should prepare for the benefit of their loved ones. If you would like help with drafting your will or other legal documents related to estate planning, call the Wichita, Kansas law office of J. Joseph Weber, P.A. at (316) 265-7802, to schedule an initial consultation, or contact us through our website.