Why You Need to Prepare a Letter of Instruction as Part of Your Estate Plan
Because a Letter of Instruction is not a legal document and is non-binding, there is no requirement that you prepare a Letter of Instruction as part of your estate plan. Nevertheless, a properly prepared Letter of Instruction will make it much easier for your executor or trustee to handle the task of administering your estate and for your loved ones to fulfill your last wishes. A Letter of Instruction is written to your executor, trustee or your heirs, depending on your preference. This page contains a sample Letter of Instruction for an estate plan. For an overview of how a Letter of Instruction fits into your estate plan, the reasons to write a Letter of Instruction, the type of information to include in a Letter of Instruction, and what should not be included in this type of estate planning letter, refer to our article on Letter of Instruction.
Letter of Instruction Form for Estate Plan
An estate planning Letter of Instruction should include the following information:1. The names and contact information of the persons or institutions you named as executor of your estate and trustee of any
estate planning trusts.2. The names and contact information of any professionals that have information about your estate, including attorneys, accountants, financial advisors, insurance agents, trustees, and realtors.
3. The location of any home safe, gun safe, cabinet or storage unit that contains important papers or personal property, along with instructions on how to open each one. The location of keys to vehicles, real estate, outbuildings, storage units, or locked safes should also be provided. If you own guns or gun accessories, refer to our page on how to add guns to your estate plan.4. A list of your safe deposit boxes and the location of the safe deposit box keys.5. Instructions on where to find passwords for accessing your computers, financial accounts, online bill pay accounts, email, voice mail, cell phone, social media accounts, etc.6. Instructions on where your important papers are located, such as your estate planning documents, will, living trust, property deeds, burial plots, vehicle titles, veteran or military service records, identification documents, annuity contract documents, life insurance policies, other insurance policies, marriage license, divorce decrees, shareholder agreements, copies of tax returns, documents regarding ownership in any privately held businesses, etc.7. If your estate planning documents do not include a memorial preferences planner,
last wishes form or other written instructions on final arrangements, such as funeral services, burial, cremation, and final resting place, you should state your last wishes in your Letter of Instruction. In your last wishes form or your Letter of Instruction, include a list of people to be notified about your passing and instructions on where to locate documentation on any prepayments you made for final arrangements. If you completed a last wishes document as part of your estate plan, simply indicate in your Letter of Instruction where the last wishes document is located.8. A list of all bank, brokerage, IRA, 401k, pension, retirement, and other financial accounts, including the institution where such accounts are held, the account numbers, the names on the accounts, and the beneficiary designations on the accounts. 9. A list or inventory of all real estate, vehicles, businesses, stock certificates, savings bonds, collectibles, and significant items of personal property included in your estate. See how to leave stock in your will. If necessary, include instructions on how to locate such items or the title or ownership certificates for each item. 10. A list of any employment benefits your spouse or partner may be entitled to receive and contact information for claiming such benefits.11. Any explanations you want to provide your heirs, beneficiaries, executors or trustees about the provisions of your estate plan, including why you made certain decisions when executing your will, living trust, power of attorney, living will, etc. For example, you may want to explain the primary goals of your estate plan, such as to leave money to charity, provide financial security to your spouse, pay for college education for your grandchildren, avoid estate taxes or provide a business succession plan. Other examples include explaining the reasons for
disinheriting an heir, leaving unequal inheritances to your children, choosing a particular site for burial or ash scattering, naming a particular person as executor or guardian or bequeathing a particular item to a beneficiary. Because a Letter of Instruction is an informal, non-binding document that is provided for informational purposes only, you can make statements in your Letter of Instruction that would not be appropriate to include in a formal legal document such as a will or living trust.
12. A list of all your debts and contact information for all creditors. Include information on the amount owed on your vehicles and mortgages owed on real estate. See
title to property.13. A list of any loans you made to others that are unpaid, including loans to your heirs or beneficiaries, along with the outstanding balance. If you made loans to your heirs or beneficiaries, your will should indicate how such loans should be handled in the event of your death.14. Instructions on arrangements you made in your estate plan for the care of your pets or animals, such as a pet trust or documents designating a
pet guardian.15. Whether you have designated yourself as an organ or tissue donor.16. Your Letter of Instruction should indicate the date it was prepared or updated.
Items to Include With Letter of Instruction
Because your Letter of Instruction contains information about your unique estate plan, every Letter of Instruction is different. It is possible your Letter of Instruction should include information not listed in the sample Letter of Instruction form shown above. If you have questions about whether to include certain information in your Letter of Instruction, contact an estate planning attorney. If you need to hire a lawyer to help with your estate plan, see
finding an attorney.For information on how to write supplemental letters to include with your estate planning documents, such as a letter to child guardian, letter to pet guardian, last wishes letter, or a letter explaining why you left certain property to certain heirs, see estate plan letters. For a comprehensive overview of how to make an estate plan, see our page on
estate planning.There are several free estate planning forms available on our site that may be helpful in completing your Letter of Instruction. For example, if you want to provide an organized list or inventory of the property in your estate to make estate administration easier for your family and executor, you can complete our free estate property form and store it with your estate planning documents. You can also complete our free Estate Plan Coversheet to make it easier for your survivors to quickly gather important information they need immediately after your passing.For a complete list of estate plan letters and forms you may want to complete as part of the estate planning process, see free estate planning forms.Note: The Letter of Instruction for Estate Plan Form is a copyrighted document owned exclusively by Pennyborn.com. It may not be copied, reproduced or published by any third party without the prior written authorization of The Pennyborn Planning Company.