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Have you considered a letter of last instruction?

Lately, you may have had your end-of-life wishes on your mind more than usual. You may have recently lost a loved one and now feel the need to get your affairs in order, or you may simply want to ensure that your family won't wonder what you would have wanted in the event of your passing. Of course, you may not know where to start.

If you do not feel ready to jump into creating legally binding documents just yet, you can still start on your estate plan. A letter of last instruction may give you a useful place to start, as it can include any information you feel your family may need in order to settle your affairs.

Information in your letter

Though your letter of last instruction can include whatever final personal thoughts you have for your family, it can also prove useful to include logical information. Some details you may want to put in your letter include the following:

  • Contact information for your attorney, financial advisors and other parties
  • Information on your desired funeral arrangements
  • Your personal information that a funeral director or family may need in order to file for benefits
  • A list of death benefits your family will likely receive, such as life insurance or pension payouts
  • Where loved ones can find important documents, like your birth certificate, marriage or divorce documents, and estate planning documents after you have created them
  • Location and access information of a safe-deposit box, post office box and important accounts
  • Information on any outstanding debts
  • Information on other important financial factors
  • Last thoughts and instructions for your loved ones, which may include personal letters or hopes for your family
  • Your signature and date of the document

While this letter may act as a good starting point in getting your wishes organized, it is important to remember that it is not legally binding. You will need to create a will or other estate planning document that acts in accordance with Maryland state laws regarding such documents.

Creating other documents

Once you feel ready to move forward with more formal estate planning, consulting with an attorney may work in your best interests. This legal professional can help you understand your planning options and what tools can help you start. After taking this step, you may need to update your letter of last instruction in order to provide the location of these documents or change any other information to coincide with your formal estate plan.

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