Do you want to provide guidance above and beyond the terms of your will? You can use “letters of instructions” to fill the gaps. Although such documents aren’t legally binding, they still can be helpful. Here are several issues you might address in this way:
- A letter could detail an inventory of your assets, including checking and savings accounts; safe deposit boxes; retirement plans; Social Security and VA benefits; stocks, bonds, and other investments; real estate holdings; and life insurance and other insurance policies.
- It also could specify where important papers are located—for example, disclosing where your income tax returns and credit card information may be found. This can ease matters for your executor.
- It also might address other personal matters, including funeral, burial, or cremation arrangements; addresses and telephone numbers of people and organizations to be notified when you die; and other specific instructions (for example, providing holiday gifts to caretakers).
- Finally, you could use a letter of instruction to indicate personal preferences, such as your wishes regarding a child’s education. You also might explain the bequest each heir will receive and the reason for the choice.
Letters of instructions are meant to supplement, not replace, a valid will. Nevertheless, they can offer valuable guidance at a time of need.