Actor Lee Marvin once said, “As soon as people see my face on a movie screen, they [know] two things: first, I’m not going to get the girl, and second, I’ll get a cheap funeral before the picture is over.”
Most people don’t spend too much time thinking about their own funeral, and yet, many of us have a vision about our memorial service or the handling of our remains. A letter of instruction can help you accomplish that goal.
A letter of instruction is not a legal document; it’s a letter written by you that provides additional, more personal information regarding your estate. It can be addressed to whomever you choose, but typically, letters of instruction are directed to the executor, family members, or beneficiaries.
Identify Funeral Wishes. A letter of instruction is also a good place to leave burial or cremation wishes. You should consider giving the location of your cemetery plot deed, if you have one. You may even wish to specify which hymns or speakers you would like included in your memorial service. Although a letter of instruction is not legally binding, your heirs will probably be glad to know how you would like to be remembered. It also may be helpful to leave a list of contact information for people who should be notified in the event of your death. Here are some items to consider including in your funeral planning instructions:
- Instructions on body or organ donation
- Relatives, friends and advisors to inform
- Cemetery plot information (location, purchase date, deed number and location of deed, etc.)
- Fact sheet for the funeral director
- Armed services records
- Choice of funeral home
- Type of funeral preferred
- Cremation or other interment instructions
- Monument or marker wishes
Make a Cheat Sheet. Think of a letter of instruction as a “cheat sheet” to your estate. It often incorporates a lot of information, much more than just your funeral wishes. Here are a few additional ideas and concepts that may be included:
- The location of important legal documents, such as your will, insurance policies, titles to automobiles, deeds to property, etc.
- A list of financial assets, including savings and checking accounts, stocks, bonds, and retirement accounts. Be sure to include account numbers, PINs, and passwords where applicable.
- A list of pensions or profit-sharing plans, including the location of their explanatory booklets.
- The location of your latest tax return and Social Security statements.
- The location of any safe deposit boxes and their keys.
- Information on your social media accounts and how they can be accessed.
There is no “best way” to write a letter of instruction. It can be written in your style and reflect your personality, or it can be written to simply convey information. You can use your Will as a guide, but it’s your choice which type of letter best fits your estate strategy. Once you have made this decision, you can prepare your letter the way you intend for things to be handled, perhaps removing some of the decisions your loved ones would have to make during a difficult time.
Please remember that different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product made reference to directly or indirectly in this content, will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), or be suitable for you or your portfolio. Due to various factors, including changing market conditions, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter (article) serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from Searcy Financial Services, Inc.
The content of this letter does not constitute a tax or legal opinion. Always consult with a competent professional service provider for advice on tax or legal matters specific to your situation. To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed in this content, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.
Published for the blog on August 12, 2019 by Searcy Financial Services, your Overland Park, Kansas Fee-Only Financial Planner and Investment Manager.