When a Will and Trust Don’t Tell the Whole Story: Filling in the “Personal Details” Gaps

Who do we need to call first?

Where would he want to be buried?

Where did he leave his important documents and valuables?

A few months ago, my wife forwarded me a Wall Street Journal article that highlighted some of the unique “personal details” that become important when a loved one dies. The questions above present just a few of these details mentioned in the article (which was originally inspired by the AARP’s publications and literature on the issue).

After giving it a bit of thought, it occurred to me that, as an attorney who practices in estate planning, these questions not only are important, but ones that I myself would not necessarily know the answer to if one of my loved ones passed away. Going a step further, I also realized that it would be helpful to not only point out this issue to clients but also assist them with organizing this type of information.

Accordingly, as part of the typical package of documents that our estate planning clients receive, we will now make available a “Letter of Instructions” document. The purpose of this document will be to assist clients with memorializing in writing for their loved ones their wishes regarding funeral and burial arrangements, sharing the location of their important documents and valuables, and providing up-to-date information on their personal and financial affairs.

The ultimate goal of filling out our “Letter of Instructions” document will be to ease the settling of clients’ affairs and administration of their estate, both of which are not always the ‘easiest’ for loved ones to accomplish. However, please realize that this document will not serve as a substitute for a well-constructed estate plan, as it is not intended to be legally binding.

If you are a prospective estate planning client, rest assured that we will have you covered in terms of assisting your loved ones with those all-important personal details that are not usually covered in a will or trust. And if you are a former client that did not already prepare a document with the types of instructions discussed in this blog post, contact one of our estate planning attorneys today to receive a copy of our “Letter of Instructions” document.

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