When a Will Is Not Enough – Wall Street Journal

by Lindsay Gellman, Wall Street Journal
Where there’s a will, there’s a way—and sometimes an ugly family feud.

Families are consumed with grief when a loved one dies, but unfortunately certain legal and organizational tasks that arise can’t be ignored or put off for long. But you can ease the burden on your loved ones by making some simple preparations in addition to a will.

To head off bickering over your personal possessions, consider supplementing your will with a letter of instruction, an informal document that you can draft yourself, without the assistance of an attorney, according to AARP, formerly the American Association of Retired Persons.

Unlike a will, the letter of instruction is not legally binding, but it can be a helpful road map for your family in your absence, and can provide more detail than is customary in a will.

Case in point: a 95-year-old Los Angeles resident who passed away recently, leaving such detailed instructions that her executors knew to send her high-school yearbooks to a former classmate and her photo albums to particular relatives. She was a client of Daniel B. Allen, estate-services specialist with Wells Fargo Private Bank, who says she left a letter of instruction for distribution of her possessions to more than 40 beneficiaries, saving her executors the stress of guesswork.

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