Should I consider adding an informational letter to my existing estate plan?

Some people may not realize that estate planning is more than a one-time endeavor. Instead, it should be viewed as an ongoing process throughout your life. Estate plans need to be updated as time goes on and circumstances change. One easy update you can consider is adding a letter or memorandum to your estate plan to address certain items that may not be handled through your other estate planning documents.

Types of Information to Add to Your Estate Plan

Why types of information should you consider including in the letter? The following is an overview:

  • Funeral arrangements. In this section of your letter, consider adding important information about your burial wishes that are not otherwise addressed as part of your estate plan. For example, you might want to include a list of people you want notified about your death and their contact information. You may also want to express your wishes about the burial or funeral ceremony, such as specific music you want played. If you have already paid for your funeral or burial in advance, be sure to list the relevant information, such as the location of the burial plot, the name of the funeral home, and the plot deed. If you prefer to be cremated, state where you would like your ashes distributed.
  • Financial and personal affairs. In order to ease the administration process, make a list of relevant individuals and organizations your loved ones should contact. This may include your attorney, accountant, and organizations such as the Social Security Administration. Also include current financial information such as account names and numbers, the name of your employer, and contact information for your insurance agent and financial advisor. It is also a good idea to provide the location of important paperwork such as the title to your car and location of your estate planning documents. Finally, consider making a list of your online accounts and their relevant passwords.
  • Tangible personal property. If your will or trust does not detail who should receive specific personal property items, consider including this information in your letter. Specify who should receive such items as photo albums, jewelry, and clothing.

While this side letter may not be considered a legal document or legally binding, it can provide valuable information to your loved ones about your wishes. It may also help to ease the administration process. However, it is important to consult with your attorney before making this addition to your plan. He or she can help ensure that you address all important areas of information in the best possible way.