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Do you want to talk to a lawyer about your estate planning needs?

You may have a unique situation or have specific questions about what is right for you and your family. In these cases, it may be best to talk to an attorney.
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Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
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  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
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Do you have children from a previous relationship or a child with special needs?

There are special considerations to make if you have a blended family or a child with special needs. In these cases, it may be best to talk to an attorney.
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Speaking with
a FindLaw Attorney

Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
What’s included:
  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
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Do you have a large estate or an interest in more advanced estate planning tools like trusts?

If your estate equals or exceeds a value of $1 million, or needs special estate planning tools like trusts, it may be best to talk with an attorney.
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Thank you for taking our quiz!
Your answers suggest you might benefit from:

Speaking with
a FindLaw Attorney

Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
What’s included:
  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
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Are you looking to have your estate planning basics covered?

Our Estate Planning Package includes a Last Will & Testament, Health Care Directive & Living Will, and Financial Power of Attorney to cover all of your basic estate planning needs.
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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Do you have minor children?

If you have minor children, you will want to name a guardian for them.
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Do you have pets?

If you have a pet or pets, you will want to name someone to care for them.
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Do you want to leave gifts to people or a charity?

If you want to give items or money to people or charities, you will want to make what are known as “specific gifts.”
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Do you own a business?

If you own a business or a share of a business, you will want to plan for succession of ownership.
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Do you want to decide how your property is distributed when you pass away?

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Do you want someone to handle your health care decisions if you are unable?

In case you are incapacitated, you will want to list your health care preferences and name someone to handle your health care decisions.
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Do you want to specify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are unavailable or incapacitated?

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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Understood! Last question…

Do you want to specify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are unavailable or incapacitated?

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Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Do you want someone to handle your health care decisions if you are unable?

In case you are incapacitated, you will want to list your health care preferences and name someone to handle your health care decisions.
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Understood! Last question…

Do you want to specify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are unavailable or incapacitated?

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Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Understood! Last question…

Do you want to specify someone who can make financial decisions for you if you are unavailable or incapacitated?

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Good to know! How about this next one?

Do you have a spouse with similar needs?

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Thank you for taking our quiz!
Your answers suggest you might benefit from:

Speaking with
a FindLaw Attorney

Our directory of experienced, local attorneys can help you with circumstances such as:
What’s included:
  • Being part of a blended family
  • Caring for children with special needs
  • Establishing and maintaining trusts
  • …and any other concerns you have!
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Estate Planning Package

For One Person

$135
What’s included:
  • Last will and testament
  • Health care directive & living will
  • Financial power of attorney
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • A comprehensive plan — for less
  • Free changes and revisions for one full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$39
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will

For One Person

$39
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament

For One Person

$79
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Estate Planning Package

For Two People

$255
What’s included:
  • Two wills, health care directives & living wills, and financial powers of attorney
  • Two free HIPAA release forms
  • You and your loved one create your own estate plans tailored to your individual needs
  • Attorney-approved documents customized to your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions for one full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will

For Two People

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament

For Two People

$149
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will + Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$78
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Financial Power of Attorney

For One Person

$118
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific documents before you buy
  • Create a power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Health Care Directive & Living Will

For One Person

$118
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create a last will and testament that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your will for a full year after purchase
  • Create your health care directive and living will before you buy
  • Create a document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Health Care Directive & Living Will + Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$156
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Financial Power of Attorney

For Two People

$227
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
  • Create an attorney-approved power of attorney that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase
Close

All done! Based on your answers, we recommend:

Last Will and Testament + Health Care Directive & Living Will

For Two People

$227
What’s included:
  • Try our easy step-by-step guide
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy
  • Only purchase if you are satisfied with your estate planning documents
  • Create two wills customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free changes and revisions to your wills for a full year after purchase
  • Create your state-specific, attorney-approved documents before you buy.
  • Create an attorney-approved document that’s customized to your wishes and your state’s laws
  • Free HIPAA release form
  • Free changes and revisions to your document for a full year after purchase

Last Will and Testament Letter of Instructions

A letter of instructions is an informal document in your estate planning toolkit. It can go a long way toward providing additional clarity for your beneficiaries and the executor of your will.

Table of Contents

Basics of a Will

The will, which states your preferences for how you would like your property handled after you die, is one of the most important documents you will produce when planning your estate. Without it, disputes among family members often arise, and some property may even be given to the state if no heirs can be found.

While a letter of instructions is not a legal document, inclusion of certain elements can help make the estate succession process go more smoothly. For instance, the executor of your will needs to know where to find certain documents or how to log into certain online accounts. See FindLaw’s Wills section for a variety of related articles and resources. We also offer state-specific, easy-to-use forms to help you get started on your last will and testament.

A letter of instructions should cover three main areas:

  • Funeral Wishes (whether you have already reserved and/or paid for a plot; if requesting cremation, where you would like your ashes spread; whether you would like to donate your body or tissues)
  • Financial Details (assets, both monetary and otherwise; any outstanding debts; contact information of employers or financial planners)
  • Personal Effects (where certain items are located; how to care for pets; personal messages to your survivors)

Elements To Include in a Letter of Instructions

Specific items to include in your letter of instructions:

  1. The exact location of the will.
  2. Complete instructions for the burial/cremation (veterans may consider being buried in national cemeteries).
  3. Exhaustive listing of friends, relatives, and others who should be contacted upon your death.
  4. The exact location of all important documents, such as real estate deeds, divorce papers, birth certificate, any other legal documents and records.
  5. Any information related to membership in societies, lodges, or other such organizations (Freemasons, for example). Many of them offer death benefits for named beneficiaries.
  6. Where documents related to life insurance may be found, name of insurer(s), policy number(s), etc.
  7. All bank account information, including the names of banks and account numbers.
  8. A listing of any U.S. Savings Bonds (include names, denominations, and serial numbers).
  9. A listing of any stocks or bonds (and where they can be found).
  10. Any pension plan information.
  11. Income tax returns, both state and federal, from the past few years.
  12. A statement regarding any changes to your will.
  13. Location of any outstanding or recurring bills, plus a list of any outstanding personal debts.
  14. Where bills and records of payment are located.
  15. Any large gifts that you have given in the past few years.

Make Sure Everything’s In Order: Get Help From an Estate Planning Lawyer

The content of any letter of instructions will vary according to each individual’s unique needs. The main goal is to help the executor of your will and your beneficiaries handle the process as smoothly as possible. Contact a local wills attorney, who can help ensure that your estate documents clearly and effectively communicate your wishes when you are gone.

Estate planning solutions to fit your needs.

Written by:

FindLaw Staff

Contributing Author

Ally_Marshall_image

Reviewed by:

Ally Marshall, Esq.

Managing Editor