Death is a difficult topic to discuss especially when it comes to your own or that of a loved one. But end of life planning can mean the difference between survivors carrying out your wishes or second-guessing them. Careful planning can save your heirs many weeks or minutes of difficulty determining exactly what you wanted.

You see, if you have a will or trust you may think that you have nothing to worry about and having a will or trust is an important step in the estate planning process but it is not the only step. A will is essential for managing legal matters for an estate but it is not the best place to record your personal preferences on many matters, as well as the location of important information.

We often hear stories of people who die and leave financial or other problems for their families to settle. These stories could often have been prevented with a Memo or letter of instructions along with a comprehensive estate plan including a will, power of attorney, medical power of attorney, hippa release, and any other pertinent documents.

Where is your important financial information located?

What kind of choices will your family have without your income?

Who are your advisors including tax, legal, and financial advisors?

Where or to whom do your personal belongings go?

When do or should children or grandchildren get discretionary trust distributions?

These are all great questions to think about when writing your Memo or letter of instructions to add to or begin your estate plan.

A Memo of instructions can be used to record information about the location and more details about important documents, such as your will, power of attorney, insurance policies, and tax returns. It also provides a way to communicate your preferences for funeral and burial arrangements and people who should be notified of your death.

Finally, a memo can advise your executor or trustees about your philosophies about money and trusts that will inform them about distributions.

It's important to keep your memo of instructions in a place that is easily accessible to family members, such as your desk. It can be addressed to a spouse, close family member, or friend.

A Memo of instructions is not a legally binding document, but it does provide assistance and guidance to loved ones.

This document, as part of an overall estate plan, can make it easier for survivors to manage your affairs after your death.

Here is a checklist of some important items to include in your Memo:

Funeral and Burial Arrangements

• Location and service preferences and information
• Burial or cremation information like pre paid plots and markers
• People to be notified of your death

Family Records

• Birth, death, and marriage certificates
• Social security and insurance policy numbers and information
• Deeds to your real estate, mortgages

Estate Planning Documents

• Will, trust, power of attorney, estate planning documents or locations

Financial Records

• Bank account numbers and locations
• Location and key information on safety deposit boxes
• Investment account statements, insurance policies, tax returns, stock certificates

Professional Assistance

• Lawyer contact information
• Accountant contact information
• Financial advisor contact information
• Other Professional involvement information

Organizing your affairs now will lead to less conflict between family and friends on what do to and how to do it after you are gone.

Make it easier on your loved ones by giving them all the information they need to follow your wishes and eliminate financial and other problems that could and often do occur in an estate administration.



David M. Frees, III
Connect with me
Attorney, Speaker and Author