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Understand the purpose of a letter of instruction

When you think of an estate plan, you likely think about wills and trusts. But, there is another document that you need to prepare for your loved ones – the letter of instruction. This isn't legally binding, but it outlines important information that can benefit your family members when you die. You can leave one for everyone to read or you can leave individual letters for specific people.

One important thing to include in your letter of instruction is the details for your final arrangements. Would you prefer cremation over burial? Try to be specific so that your loved ones know exactly what you want. If you have a prepaid funeral plan or have made arrangements with a certain funeral home, you can include this information in the letter. If you know what casket or urn you want, include that, too.

You can also list your assets so that your loved ones know exactly what is in your estate. Include the location of the deeds for properties and where those properties are located.

Another thing to add to this letter is a list of important online accounts and their log-in information. This includes brokerage, bank, investment and retirement accounts that can be accessed online. If you have any that aren't online, provide the information about where they are held.

If you want to ask for charitable donations in lieu of floral arrangements, state your preferences in the letter of instruction. You might also include information about caring for pets and whom you would like to care for them once you're gone.

You don't have to worry about legalese in your letter of instruction. Simply jot down what you think is important and use that as a guide for writing the letter.

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Law Offices of Nancy M. Rice
Representing clients in Ocean City and communities throughout New Jersey.


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Phone: 856-673-0048
Fax: 856-673-0052
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Rice & Quattrone, PC
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Linwood, NJ 08221

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