Palm Springs Law Blog

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

What Is a Letter of Last Instruction?

There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to estate planning. While many people consider creating a will or a trust, they don’t often know of the possibility to create a Letter of Last Instruction.

A will and a trust are legal documents that discuss how and to whom an individual wants their assets to be distributed after they pass. A Letter of Last Instruction is different from a will or a trust in that it discusses the funeral planning processes and arrangements for someone after they have passed. Hence, why it is referred to as a Letter of Last Instruction.

Another difference between these documents is that a Letter of Last Instruction does not pass through the legal process of probate. Wills and trusts are much more formal types of legal documents, whereas a Letter of Last Instruction is informal. It helps to provide your loved ones with a blueprint for financial and personal matters after you pass. It can be another means for making sure that your loved ones are cared for and help to prevent potential issues that could come about in light of not entering the probate process.

So What Can a Letter of Last Instruction Include?

There are a variety of things that you can include in a Letter of Last Instruction. These include the following:

1. Personal Information

It’s helpful to have all of your personal information in one location. This includes things such as your full name, date of birth, place of birth, Social Security number, address, mother’s maiden name, and father’s name. You can also include whom in your life you would like to be notified after you pass away.

2. Business and Financial Contacts

It’s important that you make a clear list of information pertaining to your insurance policies and bank accounts. You can also include names and contact information for those who have an interest in your finances upon your death: business partners, financial partners, investment advisor(s), and accountant(s).

3. The Location of Legal Documents

One of the most important things for people to know after your death is where they can find all of your local documents. Include specific locations for where people can find the following documents:

  • Will
  • Trust documents
  • Social Security card
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage license
  • Deeds
  • Tax returns
  • Contracts
  • Benefits information (e.g. veteran benefits)

4. Information Pertaining to Debt or Loans

It’s important that you let others know to whom you owe money after you pass. Include a list of your creditors, credit card information, and loan account numbers along with contact information and payment terms.

5. Usernames and Passwords

You may not think about this, but it’s imperative that people know your usernames and passwords for all of your online accounts including your email, social media, and banking. This allows your executor or other trusted individual to be sure that these accounts remain protected after you die.

6. Beneficiaries

You can make a list of the names and contact information of all of those whom you wish to distribute your assets. You can also include specific instructions to provide an understanding of your intent. However, it’s imperative that you ensure these instructions aren’t contradictory to those in your will.

7. Funeral Arrangements

If you want to make things easier on your loved ones, you can also include what you would like for your funeral arrangements. This can include everything from the clothing and jewelry you want to be buried in, to the flowers, type of service, and location. By including this information you can help to put your family at ease in knowing that they followed your wishes.

Finally, once your Letter of Last Instruction has been established, ensure that your executor or other trusted individual knows exactly where it can be located. As with a will, your Letter of Last Instruction can be updated during the course of your lifetime and a qualified California estate-planning attorney can help.

Heritage Legal, PC Helps Those in California to Plan for Long-Term Care

At Heritage Legal, PC, we understand the importance of protecting your interests and the interests of those whom you care about most. We can help you to create a comprehensive estate plan, including a Letter of Last Instruction, which fills all of your needs and plans ahead for your future and your family. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!

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