If you’re a member of the Baby Boomer generation, there’s a good chance you have not done even the most basic of estate planning. In fact, only 56 percent of you have a will, according to a 2011 survey by Rocket Lawyer. So, if you have covered that base, give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back … but not too heartily. As SmartMoney recently pointed out, most people overlook another crucial element in their estate plan: a letter of final instruction.
The letter of final instruction is a non-legal document that guides your family through important tasks after your death. For example, your family might not know where you keep important papers like a deed or a marriage or birth certificate. They may need your passwords to access accounts on your computer. You also may want to list the contact information for people you would want notified, like friends that your family members may not know well. Trusts & Estates magazine recently ran a list of items you might want to include. The idea is not so much to set down demands or to solve possible squabbles, because the document is non-legal, but just to supply the answers to those questions that could otherwise prove troublesome for your family.
Of course, this letter is just a small (and non-legal) part of your estate plan. You still need to cover your legal bases with at least a will, living will, health care proxy and durable powers of attorney. Learn more in the Fundamental Estate Planning Practice Center on our website. Also, read the October 2010 of our e-newsletter, Are You Ready? about getting and keeping your legal affairs in order.