Do I Need a Letter of Instruction for My Will?

An estate plan should include documents that protect you in the event you become incapacitated or die. A comprehensive estate plan can also include elements of retirement planning and Medicaid planning.

We use a variety of estate documents to accomplish the goals you have for your estate. Wills, trust agreements, living wills, powers of attorney, and health care directives are some of the documents we can use to create your plan. Each plan is tailored to meet the needs of the person and their family. For this reason, you may want to also consider including a Letter of Instruction with your will.

What is a Letter of Instruction?

A letter of instruction is not a legally binding document. It is a letter written by you to your personal representative and loved ones. A letter of instruction is included with your will. Some people use these letters to address personal matters while others use letters to simply the process of transferring assets or provide information that can make taking care of business without you a little easier.

Letting Your Loved Ones Know Your Funeral Wishes

Using a letter of instruction to tell your loved ones your funeral wishes can help grieving family members who are trying to make decisions about your final arrangements.

Family members may struggle to make arrangements they believe their loved one would want, but they doubt themselves and worry about every detail. Removing the pressure of making final decisions can ease some of the stress and anxiety for your loved ones.

You may want to include the choices regarding clothing, songs, flowers, charities (instead of flowers), visitation, and any other details you want family members to know. This information can be very comforting during a time of grieving.

Providing Important Information

You can also make it easier for your loved ones by providing important information that they will need after your passing. Instead of searching for information and feeling lost without you, your loved ones will have a “cheat sheet” created for them by you.

Items you may want to add to your list of information include:

  • The location of important documents such as insurance policies, vehicle titles, property deeds, estate documents, and legal contracts.
  • A list of your retirement plans, including any IRAs, pension plans, 401(k) accounts, with the beneficiaries’ names, account number, and the contact information for the company.
  • Location of your tax returns, Social Security statements, birth certificate, divorce orders, and other documents related to personal identity.
  • List of financial accounts, including checking accounts, bonds, savings accounts, stocks, etc. Do not forget to list the logins, passwords, and PINs for these accounts.
  • The location of any tangible assets that your family may not be aware of or know exist.
  • The names and contact information of professionals such as attorneys, financial planners, brokers, insurance agents, and bankers who handle your assets and can provide assistance in transferring the assets.
  • Care instructions for your beloved pets. You may also want to discuss a pet trust with our law firm to provide for the care of your pets.
  • The location of any safe deposit boxes and keys to the boxes.
  • List of online accounts with logins and passwords. If you want any accounts to be handled in a specific manner, such as social media accounts, you can add this information too.

Because the letter of protection is not a legal document that must meet certain requirement to be valid and enforceable, you can include any information you desire in your letter.

Explanation of the Terms in Your Will

In some cases, you may want to explain certain decisions you made in your will to avoid family disputes. For example, if you left more money or property to one heir, your decision may have been made because this person is in greater financial need. Explaining this decision may help reduce hard feelings and arguments between family members.

If you have specific assets that you wish to go to specific individuals, you may have included those in your will to make it legally binding. However, a letter of instruction can serve as a means to let heirs know why you made various decisions. In reality, you can use the letter to communicate any of thoughts or wishes.

Call A Michigan Estate Planning Attorney for More Information

If you have questions about letters of instruction or other estate planning matters, call The Elder Care Firm of Christopher J. Berry, CELA. You can reach our office by calling 888-390-4360. You may also contact our office or request an appointment with one of our Michigan estate planning lawyers by using the contact form on our website.

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