Hayes, Williams, Turner & Daughtry, P.A.

Make it easy on your executor: Include a letter of instructions

Do you feel pretty comfortable with your end-of-life documents and plans?

If you have a will, a power of financial attorney, a power of medical attorney, a living will and any other documents put together so that your estate is handled the way that you want it to be handled, you're doing good so far -- but there's probably one more thing that you need: a letter of instructions.

A letter of instructions isn't a formal legal document, although it is important to the administration of your estate and you can get an attorney to help you prepare it (or at least look over the one you've written to see if it is complete). Ultimately, it can make everything much easier for the person or persons handling your estate -- it's the plain English version of what anyone must know in order to take care of business when you pass away.

Experts say that you should include some very specific information:

1. Your funeral instructions

Whether simple or complex, include information like which funeral home you wish to use (if any), what graveyard, what type of headstone -- or if you wish to be cremated, how you want your ashes to be handled afterward.

Include a list of your friends and relatives, with their contact information, so that they can be notified of your passing. Also include the names of any clubs or religious groups you belong to, so that they can also be notified -- don't assume your executor will know or remember at the time!

2. Your financial information

While a lot of that is covered in the will, make sure that you include information like where the will is located, where safety deposit boxes are, where insurance policies are kept and your banking information. A list of credit cards and loans is also helpful. Contact information for your pension, if you are on one, is also important.

3. Your personal items

Feel free to be as specific as you can here. Detail exactly who is to receive what personal items -- especially if they are not specifically mentioned in your will. This alone can make estate administration much easier.

Finally, don't forget to sign the letter -- in ink -- and date it. That way, there's no question about the authenticity or whether or not it predates the will.


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