The passing of a loved one is never easy for friends and family, but it can be even more difficult if the survivors do not have the information they need to make decisions and take care of final arrangements.
Legal documents such as a will and powers of attorney are important, but a letter of instructions – which is not a legal document – could be just as advantageous for your heirs. It enables you to express your final wishes and provide guidance regarding the many personal and financial matters that your heirs may face after your passing.
A letter of instructions can convey any information that might help your loved ones. Here are some topics to consider addressing in the letter.
People to contact, such as attorneys, financial professionals, insurance agents, and accountants.
The location of important documents, including your will, insurance policies, birth certificate, marriage and/or divorce papers, Social Security and Medicare cards, tax returns, vehicle titles, and deeds to real property.
Your wishes for final arrangements such as a memorial or funeral service and organ donation.
Information on your bank and retirement accounts, including account numbers, PINs, and passwords.
A list of creditors and the location of bills.
A description of any important information to be found on your computer, including login IDs and passwords.
Store your letter in a safe, yet accessible place; tell your loved ones where they can find it; and give copies to the executor of your estate and other trusted individuals. Because some information in the letter may change over time, consider updating it regularly.
It may not be pleasant to think about what might happen after you're gone, but leaving a clear letter of instructions could be a final act of gratitude for your heirs.
(Charles Sims Jr. is President/ CEO of The Sims Financial Group. Contact him at 901-682-2410 or visit www.SimsFinancialGroup.com. The information in this article is not intended to be tax or legal advice, and it may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. You are encouraged to seek tax or legal advice from an independent professional advisor.)