Letter of Instruction
A Spokane probate attorney from the Whipple Law Group can help you in a variety of ways. Issues involving your will, your estate, power of attorney, and health care by proxy (living will) can be complicated, so ensure you stay within the confines of the law with help from a caring probate lawyer.
However, a letter of instructions is different because you can create this document yourself, without help from a Spokane probate lawyer
Consider the following information, prepared for our clients by a qualified Spokane probate attorney.
Things to Consider when Preparing a Letter of Instructions – Spokane Probate Lawyer Advice
Our Spokane probate attorneys are often asked, “What is a letter of instructions?” A letter of instructions is an informal document that gives your survivors information concerning important financial and personal matters that must be attended to after your death.
Unlike the other three essential estate planning documents – your Will, durable power of attorney (DPOA), and health care proxy (living will), which you should have a probate attorney prepare, you can prepare a letter of instructions yourself.
Letter of instructions can be used for many different things, but one of its main uses is simply to lead the person who must settle your estate through the process step by step in plain language that he or she can easily understand.
Although it doesn’t carry the legal weight of a will, and is in no way a substitute for a will, a letter of instructions clarifies any special requests you wish be carried out upon your death. It also provides essential financial information, thus relieving the family of needless worry and speculation. Your probate lawyer can help with any questions you have concerning this document.
Your Whipple Law Group Spokane Probate Attorney Urges You to Include the Following Information In Your Letter of Instructions
Here are some of the basic items that should be addressed in your letter of instructions, according to our Spokane probate lawyers:
- The location of important papers, including any wills, trusts, birth and marriage certificates, military records, titles and/or deeds for personal property (vehicles) and real estate property, rental property, oil and gas leases, etc.
- Location of most recent copies of all financial and Social Security statements, tax returns, and legal documents in addition to your Power of Attorney, Will and trust(s).
- Your Social Security number or where it can be located.
- Identified charities for donations, if these are preferred instead of flowers.
- A summary of your investment accounts and insurance policies with contact information.
- Location of documents relating to your personal residence, including an inventory of household contents and warranties and receipts for expensive items. You may also want to include a list of mementos naming next to each item the person you would like to receive it. This should be included as a list of bequests in your Will.
- Details of the whereabouts of your safe deposit box, its key, key holders and a list of its contents.
- The names and addresses of people and institutions that should be notified of your passing.
- Care and placement instructions for any pets.
- An expression of your wishes about your funeral and burial preferences, including any advance arrangements that have been made.
- Any considerations related to the maintenance of specific property (real or personal).
A Whipple Law Group Spokane Probate Attorney Explains a “Hope Drawer,” and Why You Should Use It
Often, people keep their letter of instructions in a designated “Hope Drawer.” This is simply a term used by probate lawyers for a fairly easily accessible place, somewhere in the home that is generally known to those people that will be on hand to help in the event of an emergency. The actual location can be a drawer, a file, or even a shoe box.
While a fire safe seems like a good idea, it is actually a hindrance if it cannot be opened in the emergency. Remember, you and your spouse could be injured in the same event.
In addition to the letter of instruction, the “Hope Drawer” is where you might keep your durable power of attorney (DPOA) and health care directives (living will) and/or Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order, which should all be created with help from a Spokane probate attorney. These are documents that you want someone to be able to locate and have immediately accessible in the event of an emergency.
As a reminder, the “Hope Drawer” is not a place you keep sensitive information or actual important documents. The letter of instructions and its placement in the “Hope Drawer” allows you to point people towards where other important documents and information is located while protecting the physical safety and confidentiality of these documents and information.
Spokane Probate Lawyer
Letter of Instructions
Your Spokane probate lawyer will urge you to inventory these items and keep them separate:
- Originals of important papers, including any wills, trusts, birth and marriage certificates, divorce decrees, military records, titles and/or deeds for personal property (vehicles) and real estate property, rental property, oil and gas leases, etc.
- Copies of all financial and Social Security statements, tax returns, and legal documents in addition to your wills and trust.
- A complete, comprehensive list of all assets, both liquid and illiquid.
- The whereabouts of any and all tangible assets not readily accessible or easily ascertainable.
- The names, passwords, PIN numbers and account numbers of all liquid assets, including bank, brokerage, retirement and investment accounts.
- The identification and basis of all securities held at the time of death with confirmation slips. If you cannot locate confirmation slips, then at least make a note of transfer dates shown on stock certificates and registered bonds.
- The names and contact information of any bankers, brokers, accountants, probate attorneys or other professionals who handle your assets.
- Contact information and details for any and all insurance coverage, especially life insurance.
- List of important dates and description of events (Dates and places of birth and death of parents, dates and places of birth and death of siblings, children, etc., adoption proceedings, divorces, etc.)
- List of all financial account beneficiaries and their contact information, as necessary, including bank accounts, retirement, insurance, life insurance, etc.
- List of all estate beneficiaries and their contact information.
- Contact information of any debtors, such as mortgages, credit cards and car loans.
Obviously, your survivors will benefit greatly if you prepare a letter of instructions. But you will also benefit as a well-prepared letter is a great way to organize your personal records – something all of us should do regularly.
Here are additional issues and particulars items that you will want to consider as you draft your letter of instruction:
Valuable Spokane Probate Lawyer Advice – Make the Letter Your Own
This letter can also outline more personal desires, including such details as where you want to be buried and the kind of funeral you want. You can specify location, funeral home or even what type of flowers you would like, or whether you would like your ashes to be displayed at the ceremony.
You can use the letter to voice other personal requests that may be inappropriate for a will or trust, such as a general sentiment about how you would like your heirs to use their inherited assets. You could even tell your aunt that she better not wear the hideous yellow hat with the giant bird on it to your funeral.
Another advantage is you can use the letter to expand on your living will, elaborating on the medical conditions under which you would like to be taken off of life support in more detail than is permitted in a healthcare or medical power of attorney. Many people also include an ethical will inside this letter.
An ethical will is a document that allows you to pass down your values, beliefs and ideals to your loved ones.
Remember, this type of letter does not have to meet any kind of legal format or other formal requirements; it can be handwritten on plain notebook paper and kept in a file drawer if you like. Anything goes in a letter of instructions; some people use these letters as chance to write their own obituaries.
A letter of instruction provides an easy shortcut for those who will have to settle your affairs once you are gone. As with any other estate planning document, it should be updated at least annually and kept in a safe place where it is accessible by your relatives or executor. While this letter is not required in any technical sense, it can serve as a final gesture of consideration for those you have elected to settle your affairs.
A Spokane probate attorney can help you with any other questions you may have.
A simple reminder: Estate planning is absolutely one of the most loving things you will ever do!