Last Will & Testament: Add a Letter Covering These 14 Wishes

Hoover Financial AdvisorsMarch 20, 2015

Estate Planning

Having a will is necessary, but there is a great deal of information the legal document does not include. Here’s what to cover in a supplemental letter that specifies preferences, discloses critical logistic info, and will save your family significant stress during a difficult time.

You might be surprised how many people die each year without a will. There are numerous reasons for this major oversight, including those who cannot or will not think about death, those who believe talking about and creating a will may cause problems with their partner or family members, and those who don’t want to spend money on lawyers.

Having a proper will goes a long way to prevent family arguments. The guesswork is eliminated and the family is clear on your intentions. Furthermore, a will may actually save money, because without one, the provincial/state authorities are in control, and that could mean unnecessary delays and extra costs.

Just as a will brings a feeling of peace and comfort, so does an accompanying letter listing items usually not included in the will. Here are several suggestions you may consider including in your or your loved one’s accompanying letter:

  1. People to be notified at the time of death. Certain people and institutions need to be notified at time of death, including your lawyer, executor, trustee, and accountant, along with federal pension authorities. Relatives and special friends will want to know as soon as possible, so providing the names, addresses, and telephone numbers will make it easier for the person assuming this responsibility. At the time of my father Jack’s death, my mother and family did not know who Jack’s closest colleagues at work were. As a result, a former coworker called after the funeral saying he would have appreciated attending. This oversight, which could have been prevented with a listing of people to be notified, caused much anguish for both the family and the friend who was left out.
  2. Listing advanced funeral arrangements. Be sure you communicate his or her funeral arrangements and last wishes (e.g., body burial, type of casket, cremation, and music requests).
  3. Location of personal papers. List the exact location of personal documents, including birth and marriage certificates, diplomas, military papers, and so on.
  4. List of bank accounts and bank locations. List all bank accounts by name of institution, branch address, and type of account. Also give the location of canceled checks and bank statements with the number and location of the safety deposit box and key.
  5. Listing of credit cards. List by issuer and card number.
  6. Location of deed and mortgage papers. Indicate where the documents are located, the date for renewal, and the holding institution.
  7. Listing of insurance policies. List life, auto, home, veterans, medical, and other insurance policies together with the responsible agent’s name and location of these documents.

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