An essential part of a good estate plan, a family letter is much more personal than many estate documents. A family letter allows you to share your heart and show appreciation and gratitude for family members. During the grieving period, it also helps them complete many practical steps to protect your possessions.
A family letter may contain up to 10 different sections. Each section will cover an important but separate topic.
Real estate data. Your real estate organizer usually consists of four parts. He will explain family names and basic information; identify your attorney, CPA, and other financial and health advisors; covering all of your assets and financial information; Determine your estate planning options.
The estate planner may be in print, or you can use an online copy. Your family letter should indicate where the information is located. If you use an online estate planner, it is important that your personal representative knows your account name and password so that the information is available.
Important documents. Your important documents will generally be protected in three different ways. First, many individuals have a safety deposit box. A safe deposit box typically contains birth certificates, death certificates, degrees and other legal agreements, marriage or divorce documents, military discharge records, property deeds, personal property inventories, stock and bond certificates, and vehicle title deeds.
Secondly, you may have a fireproof box at home. This box will often include your insurance documents, living will, medical power of attorney or advance directive, trust and will documents.
Third, some items should be left with your attorney, friend, agent, or other trusted person. These are items that may be needed during your lifetime or will be needed very soon after your death. These documents (or copies of documents) can include your financial power of attorney, a durable health care power of attorney or advance directive, your living will, trusts, and will.
Accounts and passwords. Since an increasing number of online records and information are kept on personal accounts, you will need to ensure that your personal message lists all accounts. You may decide to include passwords with the personal message. Alternatively, if you are entrusting all of this information to a specific person or other site, you must specify that.
Moving fast to online banking, online mutual fund and stock accounts, donor fund accounts, health savings accounts and email accounts, you might have anywhere from six to 10 accounts with different passwords. It will be important to record all of this information.
family history Although your estate planner will include basic information about you and your family members, there is an excellent opportunity in your letter to discuss your family history. This can include a few short paragraphs explaining your parents’ names and background. List all of their children or other major relatives in your family. Your date may discuss marriages, divorces, and any promiscuous family relationships. Finally, the family history will show the date of death for the deceased persons.
A family history can include discussions about your activities, interests, and career. It enables all members of your extended family to get a good picture of your entire life.
Taking care of children, grandchildren or pets. If you are responsible for any children, grandchildren or pets, this is an opportunity for you to explain your plan for their care. Although your estate planning documents will usually designate guardians for the children or grandchildren in your care, it can be beneficial for the trustee to receive recommendations from you about their education and other areas of development that you understand well. If someone takes care of pets, you may have recommendations on how this should be done.
Memberships. You may have membership in a number of organisations. Some memberships, such as a country club membership or a club that buys tickets to sporting events, are transferable to heirs. It will be helpful for your family if you list any memberships you have so they can handle it properly.
Taking care of your body. When you die, your body may be in the custody of a medical center or nursing home. If you’ve previously decided to donate organs, it’s helpful to explain this decision in your family letter. Organ donation requirements are usually covered by state law. In many cases, decisions about organ donation are made upon signing a living will or advance medical directive.
Funeral or memorial services. The cost of many funerals now exceeds $10,000. If you would like to help family members with decisions about your funeral or memorial services, a family letter is an excellent way to do so.
First, your family will need to decide whether to be buried in a cemetery with a coffin or use cremation services and an urn. You may have personal or religious reasons for choosing one over the other.
With the casket and burial in the cemetery, your family will generally benefit from a funeral home. Since there is now a lot of competition in the industry, funeral homes are starting to offer advance rates and package services. If you would like a particular set of services or type of casket, or would prefer not to be embalmed, these directions are helpful for your family.
There are funeral consumer alliances in many locations. Your family may find help and guidance www.funerals.org. This guidance may help them make good decisions during a very difficult time amidst grief over your loss.
If you are a veteran, your family may want to contact the Department of Veterans Affairs. You may be eligible for a free grave at one of the 155 national cemeteries for veterans and their spouses.
obituary. At your funeral or memorial service, there will be eulogies. It is also customary to have a printed description of your life. This will often include your primary history, awards and achievements, military service, and lifetime job. If you have specific requests for information to be included in the obituary, it is helpful for your family to provide them with guidance. You may have some principles or values that are important to you that you would like to share through your obituary. This is an opportunity for you to communicate your values to the public.
Final words and blessings to the family. May your family letter end with the word blessing. It is a tradition in many cultures for elders to offer blessings to the next generation. This is often done when the oldest person is still alive, but your family letter certainly provides a similar way to bless your children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and other family members. Your final words of wisdom and blessing to your family members will be a great comfort as they grieve your loss. It’s a proper and appropriate way to conclude your family letter.
The American Legion’s Planned Giving Program is a way to establish your legacy of support for the organization while providing for your current financial needs. Learn more about the process and the variety of charitable programs you can take advantage of at Legion.org/plannedgiving. Clicking “Learn More” will bring up an “E-Newsletter” button, where you can sign up for regular Planned Giving information.