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Last Instructions

A LETTER OF LAST instruction isn’t a substitute for a will. Still, it’s worth drawing up, because it will help your family settle your affairs in the weeks and months after your death. In our paperless world, a letter of last instruction—sometimes called a doomsday letter—has become especially important, because you may not have paper statements lying around to help your family identify your assets and liabilities. What should your letter include? It’s up to you, but the more detailed it is, the better. You might include:

  • Funeral instructions, who should be notified upon your death and which publications you would like your obituary sent to.
  • A list of financial accounts, including credit cards, insurance, and bank and investment accounts, as well as the location of any safe-deposit box. Also include the names and contact information for your insurance agent, financial advisor, lawyer, doctors and any other professionals you regularly deal with.
  • Details of where key papers can be found, such as your birth certificate, car registrations, will, trust documents, tax returns and financial account statements.
  • The usernames and passwords for various email programs and websites you use.
  • An inventory of household items and who you would like to receive them. You might specify who should inherit certain jewelry, furniture and paintings. If some items are particularly valuable, you may want to include them in your will, so your wishes are less likely to be contested.

Don’t forget to tell your executor and other key family members where the letter is located—or all your hard work could go to waste.

Next: Getting Organized

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