The Letter You Write After You Finish Your Estate Plan...

You've just finished your estate plan and you're feeling like celebrating, as you should be! It's certainly a good time to spend a few moments congratulating yourself on a nice bit of "adulting accomplished" (my grown-up version of "mischief managed"). But after you've taken that victory lap, don't forget your work isn't quite done yet...

(Insert collective groan.) There are a number of things to do after you sign those documents. Before my estate plan clients leave a signing appointment, I go over a suggested to-do list of next steps. Recently, I added another (#sorrynotsorry) item to that list: write and deliver a letter of final wishes/instruction/intent ("LFW").

This letter serves multiple purposes. From my perspective as an estate planning attorney, it is useful because it lets the people you've named in your documents know (1) where you are keeping the original signed, witnessed, and notarized documents (please, please, please: NOT in a safe-deposit box but that's a topic for a different blog post), (2) how to get in touch with your trusted professionals (like your accountant, attorney, financial advisor, etc.), and (3) important financial/property details that will be necessary to act as your Personal Representative/Executor or Power of Attorney Agent.

Additionally, a LFW is also a way to share other equally important information that doesn't belong in (or isn't directly connected to) your will, health care power of attorney, and/or durable general power of attorney. For example, your LFW can provide the names and contact information for family members and friends should be notified in the event of a serious illness or your death, things you'd want your caregivers to know in the event you are unable to communicate during your final illness, and any pre-made arrangements or other preferences for things like funeral/memorial services and burial/cremation.

Find more information on LFWs (as well as a template or two) in this Forbes article, this Investopedia post, and from Succession Matters (an Australian company).