Wills play a critical part in most estate plans, but they should be supported by other critical estate planning documents. These include letters of instruction, which play an important role in making sure that your loved ones know how to handle your estate following your death or incapacity. The following will review the role that letters of instruction can play in estate planning.


The Basic Elements


The content of letters of instruction varies greatly based on a person’s goals. One of the primary purposes of these documents is to provide details about a person’s wishes that have not yet been fully addressed in other estate planning documents.


In addition to addressing how you would like aspects of your funeral or burial handled, these letters can also address critical financial information that has been omitted. Many people rely on letters of instruction to list what insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other types of financial accounts they own.


Letters of instructions do more, however than just list financial accounts. These documents can contain account numbers as well as details about where important documents are stored. Many letters of instruction also contain the passwords required to access electronic financial accounts


What to Include In a Letter of Instruction


Given the lack of requirements, there is no definitive way to write a letter of instruction. What a person chooses to include in this document is ultimately a personal choice. Because these documents are not legally binding, there is no obligation to address any one particular issue or group of issues. Instead, drafters of letters of instruction often have the liberty to choose freely. 


While you might feel the urge to include a lot of information, remember that your loved ones will encounter a difficult time after you pass away and it is often best to leave basic instructions in order to simplify the process. 


Letters of Instruction are Evolving


Remember that letters of instruction need not be written in one sitting. Instead, many of the best letters of instruction are written over a period of time. Many people find it helpful to write down notes as they think of important details to include and to later incorporate these thoughts in the final version of their letters of instruction. 


Do not think of letters of instructions as written in stone. Instead, you must revisit these documents every time major life changes occur. Other people find it is critical to update these documents because their personal information changes. Other times, you might suddenly remember something that you would like to include in the document. 


Speak With a Knowledgeable Estate Planning Attorney


Letters of instructions are just one of many estate planning documents needed to make sure that a person’s goals are achieved. To make sure that you have the best estate plan possible, it can help to speak with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney. Contact attorney Jim A Lyon today to schedule a free case evaluation.