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What is a Letter of Instruction?

Who needs to be informed of your death? Do you have funeral wishes? Detail them in your letter of instruction.

A letter of instruction is not a formal legal document, but it can help reduce complexities for those you leave behind when you pass. It is a summary of essential information that you prepare to clarify your wishes concerning personal and financial matters.

Here are some items to consider:

  • The names of those who will need to be notified of your death

  • What is to be done immediately following your death

  • Instructions for your funeral and obituary

  • Directions for handling important financial matters that may need immediate attention.

  • An inventory of investments, insurance policies and other personal financial matters, such as debts you owe, or money owed to you

  • Locations of valuable documents, such as wills, trusts, deeds, military records, Social Security Number/Card, birth, adoption or marriage certificates, divorce decrees and disposition instructions for personal property

  • Location of important financial documents: property titles or deeds, tax returns, bank and investment statements, long-term care, medical and auto insurance policies

  • List of organizations in which you belong or are a paying member such as professional organizations, boards, country or golf clubs, social or political clubs

  • List of necessary usernames, passwords and PIN numbers to key accounts, social media, and combinations to a safe or keys to a lockbox

Key Takeaway: Keep your letter of instruction updated since the information is likely to change over time. It is recommended that you store this information in a secure location accessible to family members.