When you have your estate planning attorney draft your will, you should also have him or her prepare a power of attorney, living will and an advance health care directive. In addition to these important documents, there’s one more part of your estate planning that doesn’t come from your attorney. It also has no legal standing whatsoever: it’s your Letter of Final Wishes (LFW). This is a direct communication between you and your family that gives them useful information that doesn’t belong in your will.
Forbes recently published an article entitled “Estate Planning: Your Letter of Final Wishes.” The article explains that your LFW will detail the arrangements you want made for your funeral and burial, the individuals you want to have notified of your passing and even the program for your memorial service.
Your LFW also can contain personal details pertaining to your life and household—whether they’re important or mundane—and even electronic information for your online accounts, including user names and passwords.
When you create this document, try to logically structure your LFW, such as starting with details for your final arrangements. You can also explain the rationale behind any unique provisions of your will.
You should also add a section on important but non-legal issues. This can include your wishes for a new home for your pets and ideas on the use of collective gifts, such as a boat or vacation home.
You also should have a section on your financial life, such as the location of tax returns, investment statements and important contacts, including your estate planning attorney, accountant, insurance agent and/or financial advisor.
As a general rule, including more instead of less detail will be appreciated by your loved ones.
Many of us have experienced the ordeal of winding down the affairs of a friend or family member. This can be used as a guide when preparing your LFW. Think of the information you wish was easily accessible, answers you wish you had at the time and use that personal experience to guide the document that you create.
Finally, unlike your will which may not be readily accessible, your family should know the location of your LFW, whether it’s a physical printed document, or a file on your hard drive or stored online.
Reference: Forbes (May 18, 2017) “Estate Planning: Your Letter of Final Wishes”