Here’s a good idea: Give guidance to your heirs, expected personal representative (executor or trustee) and loved ones by creating a Letter of Last Instructions. Tell your estate planning attorney, and proposed Excecutor or Trustee where it can be found, and leave it in that trusted place (safe deposit box or fire-proof safe – you can buy a small fire-proof safe at Staples or Office Depot for less than $60).
What should you put into your Letter? Here are some suggestions:
Tell where copies of your will and/or revocable living trust can be found and where the originals are kept. Also give the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all personal representatives, executors, trustees, lawyers, conservators or guardians involved, and explain any potentially puzzling provisions that the documents may contain.
List essential papers and records and tell where they can be found. What’s important? Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate, Citizenship Papers (if any), Judgment of Divorce, Living Trust/Wills, etc.
You also might want to give funeral instructions (those should also be in your Advance Health Care Directive / Living Will).
List your life insurance agent. You should also mention any medical or disability insurance that might cover medical bills charged to the estate.
I do *not* recommend you list bank accounts, but it would be useful to tell your executor where they can get quick cash — there will be some immediate expenses after death.
Give the names and addresses of your employer, and well as any fraternal organizations or unions you belong to. They may provide death benefits or burial expenses. In addition, give your Social Security Number.
If you own real estate in addition to your house, give the same information about it, along with the names of your real estate and insurance brokers.
List all your personal property and how you would like it distributed if you have not done so in your will or a Separate Written Statement authorized in your will or trust—but keep in mind that your instructions will not be binding unless specifically mentioned in the will, trust, or Separate Written Statement.
Make a list of major debts you owe and major debts that other persons owe to you. Tell precisely how you want these matters settled, including whether you want to forgive any debts owed to you.
Tell where to locate copies of your past tax returns, where current tax information can be found, and name your CPA or tax preparer.
List any trusts under which you are named as a beneficiary, or any trusts set up by others under which your heirs are beneficiaries. Give the names and addresses of all persons involved, including attorneys.
List the names, addresses and telephone numbers of your parents, if living, and of any other relatives or close friends who should be notified of your death. Also give the names and addresses of your employer and any close associates at work.
Give the names and addresses of any lawyers, accountants, brokers and the like not already mentioned who might be helpful to your survivors.
Does this sound like a good idea? Try drafting one for yourself! If nothing else the exercise is bound to remind you of things you need to prepare for yourself.