Your will covers the legal side of estate planning, but a Letter of Final Wishes comes from the heart. Use it as a means of telling your family what you’d like them to do and to know, when you are gone.
These legal documents are necessary: a will, a power of attorney, living will and advance health care directive. But those aren’t the only documents to help your loved ones when you are incapacitated or when you have passed away. A Letter of Final Wishes (LFW) is a loving gesture that communicates directly to your family that gives them the information and insights that will help them as they address your funeral, burial and details about what you’d like to have happen.
Forbes recently published an article, “Estate Planning: Your Letter of Final Wishes,” that explains how your LFW will detail the arrangements you want made for your funeral and burial, the individuals you want to have notified of your passing and even the program for your memorial service.
Your LFW also can contain personal details pertaining to your life and household—whether they’re important or mundane—and even electronic information for your online accounts, including user names and passwords.
When you create this document, try to logically structure your LFW, such as starting with details for your final arrangements. You can also explain the rationale behind any unique provisions of your will.
You should also add a section on important but non-legal issues. This can include your wishes for a new home for your pets and ideas on the use of collective gifts, such as a boat or vacation home.
You also should have a section on your financial life, such as the location of tax returns, investment statements and important contacts, including your estate planning attorney, accountant, insurance agent and/or financial advisor.
As a general rule, including more instead of less detail will be appreciated by your loved ones.
Many of us have experienced the ordeal of winding down the affairs of a friend or family member. This can be used as a guide when preparing your LFW. Think of the information you wish was easily accessible, answers you wish you had at the time and use that personal experience to guide the document that you create.
Lastly, do your family a big favor and make sure that they know that your LFW exists and where they can find it. You might keep it on your computer, or print it out, but make sure that more than one family member knows where it is so they can access it in a timely manner, especially if it contains information about your wishes concerning burial and funeral plans.
Reference: Forbes (May 18, 2017) “Estate Planning: Your Letter of Final Wishes”