After the death of a loved one, most families are in a state of shock and grief. During that time, most people have difficulty making decisions with regard to that loved one’s last wishes. The most important gift you can leave for your family may simply be the guidance they need to handle your estate. The most common way to provide that guidance is through a Last Will and Testament and a Letter of Instruction.
The purpose of a Letter of Instruction
A Letter of Instruction is a written document that contains specific details that are not generally included in the Will. The purpose is to fill in any gaps that may be left by the terms of the Will, and it is used basically as a supplement to the Will. Just as family members need to know of the location of a Will, the Letter of Instruction should be placed along with the Will.
Common issues addressed in the Letter of Instruction
There are certain issues that can be more easily addressed in the Letter of Instruction, than in the Will itself. Some of these issues include the following:
- The identity of your attorney, accountant, insurance agent, and any other important contacts
- The location of all other important documents, such as insurance policies, birth certificates, deeds, etc.
- Financial information regarding bank accounts, retirement plans, safe deposit boxes, etc.
Items with sentimental value
Typically, there are certain personal items that have high sentimental value and cause most of the disputes among family members. It is wise to provide very specific instruction regarding these items, to the extent that information is not contained in the Will. Although a Letter of Instruction is not legally binding, it is very useful when used in conjunction with a Last Will and Testament.
Why a Letter of Instruction is so important
A Letter of Instruction should never be used as a substitute for a Will. Instead, it provides a detailed list of all the information your family will need in order to handle your estate, after your death. Without this necessary information, your family will likely spend a significant amount of time and money trying to locate that information, such as the location of your bank accounts, safe deposit boxes and other aspects of your finances and assets.
After the Letter of Instruction is drafted
After you have completed the Letter of Instruction, you should not only attach one copy to your Will, but also make another copy to give to your attorney. Also, keep one in a location your family would most likely look first when they try to find the information they need. It is also crucial that you update the letter regularly, as account numbers, bank locations and other aspects of your life and finances are likely to change.
If you have questions regarding HIPAA, or any other incapacity planning needs, please contact the Schomer Law Group either online or by calling us at (301) 337-7696.