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What Is a Letter of Instruction?

What Is a Letter of Instruction?
You’ve completed all the estate planning documents your lawyer recommended, do you really need to take another step?

What is a letter of instruction? A letter of instruction can be an essential component of your estate plan. Regardless of your wealth and family situation, there is vital information you should organize and communicate to loved ones, heirs, fiduciaries and others, says Forbes’ recent article entitled, “Letter Of Instruction: Roadmap To Take This Important Estate Planning Step.”

Some people see their letter of instruction as an ethical will—a communication to their family that expresses their beliefs, wishes, wisdom and thoughts. However, a letter of instruction may serve other purposes. Therefore, you might consider drafting several letters of instruction. One might be a guide for a trusted friend to handle financial and other matters if you have an emergency. Another may be akin to an ethical will left to a child or others. A third might be to the person serving as a health care agent who will make medical decisions for you if you can’t do so.

Here are some suggested categories you might include in one or all of your letters of instruction.

ICE – In Case of Emergency. A vital purpose of a letter of instruction is to tell someone (e.g., the agent under your power of attorney for financial matters and the agent under your health proxy or power of attorney for medical decision-making) your wishes and critical information. For both your financial and health care ICE letters, you should list the location of the original legal documents.

ICE – In Case of Financial Emergency. For your financial ICE letter, you should indicate where key financial data is maintained and how to access it. In addition, list the bills to be paid and creditor information.

ICE – In Case of Health Care Emergency. For your health care ICE letter, you should provide key health information and indicate where health records are maintained. It is important to add the contact information for healthcare professionals and any particular health challenges. Your health insurance information should also be provided.

Key Family, Advisers, and Other People. Having a list of positions, names and contact information is helpful for everyone to see, so that they know if certain actions they might have to take may be in the purview of someone else. The listing should be by categories that make sense for you. Some of the positions/relationships you might list include the following:

  • Professional Advisers, such as an estate planning attorney, CPA, investment consultant and banker
  • Family; and
  • Trustees of trusts, the executor under your will, and powers of attorney agents

As an employee of Beck, Lenox & Stolzer, I find this letter of instruction very helpful for myself as I get ready to embark on a big vacation. If you are heading out on vacation, changing either of your power of attorneys, or just needing to get all of the above on paper, now is the time. We suggest printing out a copy of this blog and keeping it by your side as you create your letter of instruction. It will keep you from forgetting to provide key information to the appropriate parties. Click here if you need to speak with one of our attorneys.

Reference: Forbes (June 18, 2023) “Letter Of Instruction: Roadmap To Take This Important Estate Planning Step”

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