We have found that very often when a family member becomes mentally incapacitated or passes away, the family is in the dark about his or her affairs.  Therefore, we recommend that everyone draft a letter of instructions to supplement their estate planning documents.  The following people should be informed where your letter of instructions and other documents can be found: your executor; agents for your power of attorney and health care proxy; and, if appropriate, your family.  The letter of instructions should include:

  1. Names, addresses and telephone numbers of people to be notified of your death.
    • Burial instructions, type of funeral you prefer, copy of pre-needs funeral agreement, name of preferred funeral home, name of cemetery and location of plot and plot deed.
    • If you are a member of any society or fraternal organization, the name and phone number of the person to contact regarding possible death benefits or funeral attendance.
    • Name of church or synagogue.
    • If you prefer, you can write your own obituary.
  2. Location of important legal papers, including Last Will and Testament; Living Trusts; Durable Powers of Attorney; Health Care Proxies; social security, Medicare and Medicaid cards; title papers to automobiles; deeds to real property; notes; mortgages; military discharge papers; marriage papers; birth and baptismal certificates; and any other papers of a legal nature.
  3. Name and address of all financial institutions.
    • A listing of all accounts, including account numbers and whether accounts are held individually, jointly or otherwise.
    • Location of all bank, brokerage, mutual fund and any other financial statements and registers.
    • Location and number of safe deposit boxes, names on same and location of keys.
  4. Name and address of all investment brokers.
    • A list of stocks, bonds and other investments; and their location.
  5. A list of any Individual Retirement Accounts or Qualified Retirement Plans, pension or profit sharing plans and location of the explanatory booklets.
    • Copies of most recent statements for these accounts.
  6. A list of all life insurance policies, including name of companies, policy numbers, face amount of policy, agent or contact person and where policy is kept.
  7. List of important personal property.
  8. Location of most recent Federal and State tax returns.
  9. Name of attorney, accountant and financial planner.
  10. A list of computer passwords for banking, brokerage accounts, your email account, etc. (There are online services that will help you keep track of passwords.)