Your will should not mention each one of your possessions because their value and nature change as time goes on. Revising your will upon every change would be both inconvenient and costly. Instead, your will should use general language in addressing the disposal of your possessions. However, it is important that you keep an updated record of all your possessions in order to assist your survivors.
A letter of instruction contains such an inventory. Because a letter of instruction is more likely than a will to be read immediately after death, it can also be a good place to assert your wishes about how you would like your body disposed of and your funeral arranged. A letter of instruction is the best place to make private statements to your survivors because your will, if probated, becomes a public document.
A letter of instruction should list your assets and liabilities, should specify their location, and should identify their form of ownership. There are many subjects that can be addressed in a letter of instruction:
Despite its benefits, a letter of instruction is not a legal document and is not binding on your survivors. It contains information, not orders. You should include information on:
Because it is not a legal document, a letter of instruction does not have to be a formal written letter. It can be in a number of informal formats such as on notebook paper, on index cards, or on a computer. Remember to update your letter of instruction as changes occur.
Copyright 2012 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.