Welcome to the Kazi Law Firm! We are a boutique law firm steeped in Texas tradition personifying the warmth and congeniality consistent with southern hospitality. We believe in preserving integrity and professionalism with true Texan charm, staying true to our roots, while providing essential, affordable legal services to all. Located just north of Dallas, Texas in the rapidly growing suburb of Frisco; the Kazi Law Firm concentrates on contracts drafting and review, wills & estate planning, real estate law, landlord, tenant, mediation, and general business law needs.
During the estate planning process, clients often ask us how their family members will know their digital passwords, bank account pin numbers, the location for their pre-paid funeral services or cemetery plot, etc. We advise clients to prepare a “Letter of Instruction” for this very purpose.
Essentially, a letter of instruction is a “cheat sheet” for anyone involved in settling your affairs. However, unlike a Will, this letter has no legal authority. Nevertheless, it can provide an easy-to-understand explanation of your overall estate plan to your executor and layout your wishes to your family in a quick, concise manner. One great advantage is that, because these letters aren’t legal documents, you can include your own personal wishes and messages to your friends and family members.
A letter of instruction may be used to lead the person settling an estate through a step-by-step process in plain language.
The letter of instruction does not need to be given to your successor trustee or to the executor during your lifetime. Many clients prefer to keep the sensitive information contained in the letter completely confidential until it is needed. However, your successor trustee, executor, and/or family members do need to know: (a) that you have prepared such a letter; (b) that it should be reviewed immediately upon your death; and (c) how to locate the letter when the need arises. Please keep in mind that the letter of instruction should be updated periodically.
The document can augment your Will or leave personal messages for your loved ones.
What Should the Letter Include?
- A complete list of all assets
- The whereabouts of any tangible assets that are not readily accessible
- Necessary information about all liquid assets, including bank, brokerage, retirement, and investment accounts
- The names and contact information of any accountants, brokers, attorneys, or other professionals who handle your assets
- Informal information regarding the dispersion of assets, such as who would get a sentimental possession or heirloom (the Will may state that these articles are to be distributed according to the letter)
- Preferred charities for donations, if they are expected
- The location of legal and financial documents such as bank and social security statements, tax returns, birth and marriage certificates, divorce and citizenship papers, Social Security card, titles and/or deeds for any real estate properties, Wills, and trusts
- A list of all financial account beneficiaries or other estate beneficiaries and their contact information, if necessary
- The location of all safe deposit boxes and their keys
- The contact information of any debtors, such as mortgages, credit cards, and car loans
- Details about and contact information for any and all insurance coverage, especially life insurance
- Instructions for the care and placement of any pets
- Online passwords for email, social media, and brokerage accounts
Imagine that you could speak directly to your representatives from beyond the grave and tell them exactly what needs to be done to settle your estate. This is how you should approach your letter of instruction.
How Do You Write the Letter?
One of the greatest advantages of an estate planning letter of instruction is that you can write it yourself. Remember, it is not a legal document and thus has no legally binding authority or enforceability. Therefore, if you want your wishes to be carried out, be sure to include them in your Will or trust.
With that being said, there is no right or wrong to prepare your letter of instruction. You can handwrite it on a piece of notebook paper or type it in a Word document. Truth be told, it doesn’t even need to be a letter. You can include spreadsheets, notes, video messages, or any other sort of permanent record that can be used after your death. The beauty of this document is that it is entirely up to you and can be in any format you feel comfortable with.
Finally, people often focus so much on transferring financial assets that they forget about the intangible gifts they want to pass on to their loved ones. What values, beliefs, stories, and traditions do you want to leave behind? Do you have a journal or diary that you want your family to have? Is there anything you want anyone to know about you? Is there something you want to say to a family member, but don’t think you have the courage to do so when alive?
If you do not write down that information, either in your letter of instruction or in a separate letter addressed to specific people, that wealth of information will pass on with you. Please keep in mind that estate planning is about more than legally transferring your financial assets. It’s about passing on your legacy and preserving your memory for generations to come. By writing an estate planning letter of instruction, you can provide tremendous value to your representative while also leaving an invaluable gift to your loved ones.
I built my law practice on the premise of being a life raft in a sea of sharks. I want to be an advocate for those that have been wronged and are too intimidated to seek help. My firm is here to explore your options, guide you through your legal journey, and give you that safe space to ask questions! There’s no such thing as a stupid question…Only the ones you don’t ask. So, my question to my clients is not “do you have any questions?” But rather “what questions do you have?”
As always, the Kazi Law Firm is standing by to help you in your time of need. Don’t hesitate to contact us today. We specialize in real estate law, landlord-tenant disputes, immigration, and wills & estate planning. Family is at the core of our practice. Just as we treat our family with respect and understanding, we treat yours. Come join the Kazi Law Firm family today!
Why swim alone in shark-infested waters when you don’t need to?