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

The Average American Budget

The Average American Budget

Learn about the average American budget in this fun and interactive piece.

Capital Gains Tax Estimator

Capital Gains Tax Estimator

Use this calculator to estimate your capital gains tax.

Navigating Retirement Pitfalls

Navigating Retirement Pitfalls

Why are they made again and again? Making sense of these errors in judgement.

 

Have A Question About This Topic?







Thank you! Oops!

Whole Life Insurance Can Be an Asset For Balance

Even if you didn’t grow up on a farm, you’ve heard, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”

How to Spend Again After Saving

When people save, it brings life rewards. But sometimes after being on your best money behavior for a long time, you want to cut loose and spend. It can happen whether you’ve been saving to buy a home, rejoined the workforce or survived a global pandemic.

Why Medicare Should Be Part of Your Retirement Strategy

How Medicare can address health care needs in your retirement strategy.

View all articles

Contributing to an IRA?

Determine if you are eligible to contribute to a traditional or Roth IRA.

Long-Term-Care Needs

Determine your potential long-term care needs and how long your current assets might last.

Bi-Weekly Payments

This calculator estimates the savings from paying a mortgage bi-weekly instead of monthly.

View all calculators

5 Smart Investing Strategies

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

Principles of Preserving Wealth

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

Your Cash Flow Statement

A presentation about managing money: using it, saving it, and even getting credit.

View all presentations

When Do You Need a Will?

When do you need a will? The answer is easy: Right Now.

Emerging Market Opportunities

What are your options for investing in emerging markets?

What Can a Million Dollars Buy You?

$1 million in a diversified portfolio could help finance part of your retirement.

View all videos