Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Preparing a person's estate plan does not conclude with the completion of the formal documents. That is only the first step, albeit, an important first step. The second step that a person might want to take is to write a letter to his family explaining to them in detail his estate plan. Ideally, the letter should include information that will help them settle the his estate. While this letter will likely be more personal, the terms of the letter should be consistent with the formal estate planning documents he created.
A person might want to consider providing his family with names of people to notify, such as the decedent's attorney, executor, trustee, etc. He might want to consider providing information that would help his family locate the people, such as an address, phone number, and the title of that person. Just like with people, the person writing the letter needs to include the location of all of their estate planning and other important personal documents, lists of valuables and special assets, a list of any trusts he might have, and whether he receives any special benefits such as Social Security. He also needs to strongly consider placing information about his funeral arrangements within the letter, especially if he has any special requests. This would also be a good time to remind family members that they will need multiple copies of the person's death certificate.
With all of these formalities completed, the letter writer might definitely want to include personal messages to the loved ones or information about the person's family history.
See Ray Martin, Estate Plan Letter To Your Family: What to Include, CBS Moneywatch, Jan. 15, 2013.