Letter Of Instruction: Don’t Leave Life Without It

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A Letter of Instruction, sometimes referred to as a Letter of Intent, provides specific information regarding personal preferences regarding dispersion of personal assets and handling of other matters. Its main purpose is to see that the deceased person’s wishes are met. But it also alleviates great stress to the heir(s), who may be overwhelmed trying to piece together the numerous tasks involved in settling an estate.

The letter should be specific, written in plain language and not debatable for interpretation. Once drafted, it should be stored in an accessible place in your home; a copy should be given to your Attorney as well as the Executor of your will. Although it is not legally binding, the letter states your specific wishes, which are almost always followed by the heirs.

The Letter of Instruction can cover just about anything from personal wishes to funeral care costs and arrangements. Adam’s Aunt Adele recently passed away and specifically stated in her Letter of Instruction that she wanted the Eisen Team to list her property for sale (even though she lived in South Florida).  We listed it and sold it!

In another situation, our good friends Les & Pat Croteau passed away suddenly and did not leave a Letter of Instruction. Even though they told us for years they were going to sell their home through us, because they left no Letter of Instruction when they died, their kids listed with someone else, which is not what they wished for.

Regarding the sale of your real estate, specify the person(s) and their personal contact information that you wish to use. Do NOT state the company name, because often individuals switch employers.

A Letter of Instruction provides an easy shortcut for those who will have to settle your affairs once you are gone. It should be reviewed and updated (if needed) annually. While the law does not technically require this letter, it does serve as a final gesture of consideration for those that are chosen to handle your estate. More importantly, it clarifies how YOU would like things to be handled.