Letters of Last Instruction
Few persons expect to die when they do, and therefore, relatively few leave their affairs in perfect order. Those who administer an estate and take care of what is left often find themselves without necessary information. To facilitate their job, it is advisable to give your personal representative or your attorney a letter of last instructions -- which is separate from you Last Will. This letter, to be opened upon your death, should contain the following:
1. Names and addresses of those to be notified at death, and relationships of members of family and relatives
2. Statement as to where your will may be found
3. Instructions as to funeral and burial. You may wish to specify, for example, that, as a veteran you be buried in a national cemetery. Exercising your veteran's right to burial in a national cemetery may save your estate expense.
4. Where your birth or baptismal certificate, titles to vehicles, social security card, marriage or divorce certificate, naturalization and citizenship papers, and discharge papers from the armed forces may be found. The latter is important if you wish to be buried in a national cemetery.
5. Where your certificates of membership in any lodges or fraternal organizations which provide death or cemetery benefits may be found.
6. Location of any safe deposit boxes you may have, and where keys are kept
7. A list of your insurance policies, and where they may be found
8. A list of all bank accounts, checking and savings; their location and where the passbooks are kept
9. A list of all other savings accounts; for example, credit union deposits, etc., and where these passbooks are kept
10. A statement concerning any trusts and/or pensions systems from which your estate may be entitled to receive benefits
11. A list of all real property owned by you with the location of deeds, mortgages, abstracts, and insurance policies for real property owned
12. Location of copies of income tax returns for previous 5 years
13. Lists of debts and names of creditors -- with addresses
14. A statement of reasons for actions taken in your will, such as disinheritances. It is usually better to place the explanation in a separate but accompanying letter, rather than in your will, to avoid a complicated will and expensive litigation.
15. List of any gifts made and information needed for estate taxes
16. A list of any prepayments made, especially for funeral expenses