Bridge over troubled waters

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By Linda DeTar     So you’re driving through a stop sign when another car runs through the sign at 50 miles-per-hour and hits you squarely on the side.  Unfortunately, you don’t survive the accident.  You’ve got a last will and testament, but it doesn’t provide details of your household, investments, login passwords, funeral wishes or other personal effects.  And now your loved ones must step in and try to locate everything and resolve all issues. Even if you survived this accident, but were incapacitated for a lengthy time, someone must oversee your household during this absence.  Do everyone a favor, while putting your mind at ease, by creating a Letter of Instructions.

A Letter of Instructions allows you to include your own personal wishes and messages to your family. Though it isn’t a legal document, your outlined information and written intentions will assist them with managing your estate or your household until you recover.  And planning ahead will reduce the stress on your loved ones.

Simply having all of your important papers stored in one location or stating that your attorney has everything is not sufficient. It’s important that someone you trust is able to access your bank accounts and pay your bills. But keep in mind, this letter does not replace estate planning, financial planning or drafting a will.

A Letter of Instructions doesn’t need to be formal, but should include information about bank accounts, employee benefits, insurance policies, etc. In addition, it should be updated periodically so the information is as current as possible. Items to consider including:

  1. Bank name, account number, name and address of local banker
  2. Will or trust – name of attorney and contact information
  3. Accountant contact information
  4. Financial planner/broker contact information
  5. Life insurance provider, policy number, contact information, amount of policy and beneficiaries
  6. Employer, HR contact name and number
  7. Medical coverage contact information and policy #
  8. Investments and retirement accounts information
  9. Veteran’s benefits details
  10. College funds/529 plans account numbers and contact information
  11. Property owned details
  12. Homeowners and car insurance information
  13. List of bills to be paid including provider, account numbers and contact information, due dates, logins and passwords
  14. Funeral wishes including location, items prepaid, etc.
  15. Names and contact information of family
  16. Pet care instructions including who should provide the care
  17. Any special wishes regarding heirs

The best time to plan is before something unexpected happens. A Letter of Instructions will help your loved ones more easily manage your estate for a smooth transition or maintain your household while you recover. It’s one thoughtful consideration that you can offer them as they navigate a bridge over these troubled waters. Contact your Alerding CPA Group representative for assistance at 317-569-4181 or

This post was written by:

Linda DeTar, CPA, CMA
Tax Manager

Linda has spent the past 30 years in public accounting working extensively with both S Corporations and C Corporations in addition to partnerships, trusts, gift and estate tax returns. She has performed quality assurance procedures, conducted staff training and assisted in managing a public accounting firm.
Linda DeTar’s Full Bio ►