Annette is a proactive client – she and her husband Charlie have been working through our checklist of conversations with their children and are simplifying their financial records. Annette prioritizes staying organized and can easily handle her monthly cash flow but knows that an unexpected illness or accident would mean that Charlie or her children would have to step in and be her “Chief Operating Officer” as she recovers. We encouraged Annette to draft a Letter of Instruction.
What is a Letter of Instruction?
A Letter of Instruction organizes key personal, financial, and health documents in one place. This will be a large help to your loved ones should they need to conduct your affairs in the event of an emergency or your untimely passing.
What should be included in my Letter of Instruction?
A Letter of Instruction should outline:
- Important Contacts: How your loved ones can contact the key people in your life, including your children, spiritual minister(s), attorney, and financial advisor(s)
- Account Numbers: Identify your assets, financial obligations (such as a mortgage, leases, credit cards) and insurance
- Important Documents: Where your loved ones can find key paperwork, such as birth certificates, passports, property titles, and military records
- Information Access: How your private information can be accessed in an emergency, including usernames and passwords for laptops, bank accounts, and safety deposit boxes
- Medical Care: Where to locate Advance Medical Directive and contact information for key medical providers
- Memberships & Subscriptions: Additional services you are regularly billed for, billing dates, and numbers that can be used to cancel them
- Items of Emotional Value: Which items of emotional value (jewelry, collectibles, family heirlooms) you wish to pass down to whom
- Final Wishes: What you want for your memorial service, obituary, and final resting place, plus your organ donation status
FAI has a new Letter of Instruction template that is comprehensive and easy-to-use. Click the link to download and get started today! Reach out to your advisor with questions.
I already have a Last Will and Testament – do I need a Letter of Instruction?
Your Last Will and Testament is a legally binding document that triggers when you pass away. But unfortunately, many people experience periods of illness or hospitalization before they pass that requires their spouse or a trusted friend to step in as “Chief Operating Officer” – paying bills, keeping a home maintained, taking care of pets, and updating friends or clergy members. These tasks may require information that isn’t usually written in a Will. Since the Letter of Instruction is not a legal document, it can be updated at any time as your needs change.
I filled out my Letter of Instruction – now what?
FAI recommends storing your Letter of Instruction, along with your estate documents (Will, Powers of Attorney, and Advance Medical Directive) in a secure location, such as a locked desk, safety deposit box, or kept at your estate attorney’s office. Make sure your spouse, Personal Representative, or other trusted friend knows where it is located, in case they need to step in as your “Chief Operating Officer”.
Our client Annette found it helpful to attach a copy of the key documents to her Letter of Instruction in a binder, so everything is stored in one place. Knowing that Charlie and her children knew where her Letter of Instruction was stored gave her the peace of mind that she was looking for.