How to write a letter of instruction 

As part of your estate plan, it’s a good idea to have a letter of instruction to your spouse, children and other heirs outlining where important documents are kept and whom to contact for help in administering your estate.

The following example is meant to be given to your spouse. Feel free to copy and edit as needed. Your loved ones will feel more secure knowing the complete financial picture and having all the information in one place. Place copies in a safe location and be sure everyone knows where to find the letter.

Letter to My Spouse

Date ________________

Dear ________________,

As we have discussed, you should use this letter (which is not to be misconstrued as my Will) after my death or serious disability to serve as a reminder about a number of matters. The purpose is to make your task of handling legal and financial matters easier.

Our attorney and our accountant have a copy. Their names and direct phone numbers are ______________________________________________.

Safety deposit box. 
Our safety deposit box is in both our names and contains papers that you will find useful at the time of my death. For example, it contains my military service documents, which will enable you to collect my veteran’s death benefits. You will also find my Will, copies of my birth certificate, and other valuable items. The box is located at __________________. The number of the box is _____________________. You will find my key to the box in ___________________________.

Will. The original copy of my Will is in our safe deposit box at the bank. You have received a copy of my Will and an additional copy is in ________________.

Executors. I have appointed _______________________ and ___________________ to serve as co-executors of my estate. They will handle most of the legal and financial matters but will need your assistance.

Funeral arrangements. We own burial plots at ______________. The certificates are in ___________________. As we have discussed, here are my instructions for a funeral _______________________________________________________.

Credit cards. Please destroy all the credit cards in my name except those that are issued jointly to both of us. You don’t want to be burdened with the problem of improper use of my cards.

Brokerage house. Please call my securities broker ________________ at _____________ and instruct him/her to nullify my standing or special instructions. Follow this with a written confirmation. After the accounts are transferred to your control, you can act as you wish.

Life insurance. My life insurance policies are in my __________________. Our life insurance agent is __________________ and his/her telephone number is ___________________. He/She will assist you in obtaining and completing claims forms so that you can promptly begin collecting these benefits.

Personal financial statement. Attached to this letter is an updated personal financial statement that is a bit more detailed in describing the stocks, real estate, partnerships, bank accounts and other investments we have made. When you read this, you will have a good handle on all our investment decisions. I suggest that you consider employing ____________, who I have consulted with from time to time as an investment adviser.

Casualty insurance. The policies that we have on our home, automobiles and other property have been purchased through _________________, whose telephone number is __________________. Be sure that none of the policies are permitted to lapse.

Home. Our home will continue to be owned by you and full title will pass to you outside of the probate court. Our deed and policy of title insurance are held in ________________.

Automobiles. All of our vehicles are registered in both of our names. Registration papers are in _____________________.

Loans. In addition to the loans we have on our real estate, which are represented by notes and deeds of trust, the policies of title insurance and deeds are in _________________. We also have a margin account at the brokerage firm. Please give your attention to that account with the advice of our estate planning adviser. The circumstances will change because everything I own will take on a new tax basis at the time of my death. Accordingly, you have a new set of circumstances to deal with regarding income taxes on any asset sales after my death.

Tax returns.
Copies of our tax returns for the past 10 years are located in _______________. You can also contact our accountant for copies of returns filed in recent years.

Pension plan. We have a substantial amount in a pension plan. The name and address of the plan administrator is _____________. I have been working primarily with __________________ whose telephone number is _______________. If the administrator is not clear about what our benefits are, consult with our estate planning adviser.

Miscellaneous. Until my estate is settled, you should keep careful records of all checks you receive, as well as what you spend. Turn over all checks made out to me, or in our joint names, to our executor. (Checks made out to you alone may be deposited or cashed by you as always.) You can continue to use our joint bank account if you wish. Keep a record of all bills paid. As questions come up, my executor or estate planning adviser is available to consult with our family.

All my love,

Contact us with any estate planning questions you may have.

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