Estate Read Time: 3 min

Put It in a Letter

American actor Lee Marvin once said, “As soon as people see my face on a movie screen, they knew two things: first, I'm not going to get the girl, and second, I'll get a cheap funeral before the picture is over.”

Most people don’t spend too much time thinking about their own funeral, and yet many of us have a vision about our memorial service or the handling of our remains. A letter of instruction can help you accomplish that goal.

A letter of instruction is not a legal document; it’s a letter written by you that provides additional and more personal information regarding your estate. It can be addressed to whomever you choose, but typically, a letter of instruction is directed to the executor, family members, or beneficiaries.1

Make a Cheat Sheet

Think of a letter of instruction as a “cheat sheet” to your estate. Here are a few ideas and concepts that may be included:

  1. The location of important legal documents, such as your will, insurance policies, titles to automobiles, deeds to property, etc.
  2. A list of financial assets, including savings and checking accounts, stocks, bonds, and retirement accounts. Be sure to include account numbers, PINs, and passwords where applicable.
  3. A list of pensions or profit-sharing plans, including the location of their explanatory booklets.
  4. The location of your latest tax return and Social Security statements.
  5. The location of any safe deposit boxes and their keys.

Identify Funeral Wishes

A letter of instruction is also a good place to leave burial or cremation wishes. You should consider giving the location of your cemetery plot deed, if you have one. You may even wish to specify which hymns or speakers you would like included in your memorial service. Although a letter of instruction is not legally binding, your heirs will probably be glad to know how you would like to be remembered. It also may be helpful to leave a list of contact information for people who should be notified in the event of your death.

There is no “best way” to write a letter of instruction. It can be written in your style and reflect your personality, or it can be written to simply convey information. You should decide what type of letter best fits your estate strategy.

1. Investopedia.com, 2021

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright FMG Suite.

Share |
 

Related Content

Bank on Your Good Health

Bank on Your Good Health

How to lower your risk of chronic illness

Should You Tap Retirement Savings to Fund College?

Should You Tap Retirement Savings to Fund College?

There are three things to consider before dipping into retirement savings to pay for college.

Who Is Your Trusted Contact?

Who Is Your Trusted Contact?

This investment account question is vital and answered as early as possible.

 

Have A Question About This Topic?







Thank you! Oops!

Tax-Advantaged Retirement Planning

Reduce your tax liability in retirement.

Buying Auto Insurance For Teen Drivers

Tips on insuring your teen driver.

Infographic: Risks at Retirement

Make a plan to take these risks off the table.

View all articles

Tax Freedom Day

Assess how many days you'll work to pay your federal tax liability.

Historical Inflation

This calculator shows how inflation over the years has impacted purchasing power.

What Is My Risk Tolerance?

This questionnaire will help determine your tolerance for investment risk.

View all calculators

Principles of Preserving Wealth

How federal estate taxes work, plus estate management documents and tactics.

Managing Your Lifestyle

Using smart management to get more of what you want and free up assets to invest.

5 Smart Investing Strategies

There are some smart strategies that may help you pursue your investment objectives

View all presentations

Investments

You’ve made investments your whole life. Work with us to help make the most of them.

The Fed and How It Got That Way

Here is a quick history of the Federal Reserve and an overview of what it does.

The Cycle of Investing

Understanding the cycle of investing may help you avoid easy pitfalls.

View all videos