Last Gift Letter of Instructions and Sentiments
There is perhaps nothing worse than seeing a family under stress in the wake of the sudden loss or disability of a loved one. As a lawyer, I see first- hand the lasting damage that can result to even the best of families when a loved one passes away or sustains a devastating and debilitating illness without leaving a clear “road map” for those who must pick up the pieces and handle his or her affairs.
Yes, having classic legal “estate planning” documents (ie, a Will, Durable Power of Attorney, and Living Will) in place and up to date is essential. But these documents merely provide the legal authority to do what is necessary. They typically provide little or no guidance regarding where to find a complete and accurate list of assets, debts, contact information for key advisors (ie, lawyer, accountant, financial planner, insurance representative, employer benefits coordinator, etc) and the like.
Just as important, these basic legal documents don’t tell your loved ones how to access your online accounts (user names or passwords) or where to find vital documents, such as your house deed, title to the car, tax returns, investment statements, insurance policies, veterans documentation, or cemetery plot deeds.
While your Will might indicate a preference for burial vs cremation, it rarely indicates if you have pre-paid funeral expenses, what kind of repast you prefer, what remembrances should be memorialized in an obituary, or how much should be spent on your final arrangements.
Similarly, if you have been the key care-provider for a disabled loved one, none of these classic planning documents tells your successor what they need to know in order to continue to do this vitally important job.
Finally, there is no place in these dry documents for the loving guidance that only you can offer to your family based on a lifetime of learning experiences.
For these reasons, one of my greatest pleasures is to give to all clients and anyone else who may be interested, at no charge, something I call a Last Gift Letter of Instructions.
I know in my heart that the use of this simple road map will save much time and money. More importantly, it will stop fragile families from fracturing under the stress of decision making in a vacuum when a cherished loved one suddenly passes away or becomes permanently disabled.