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Letter of Instruction Explained with Samples

The Art of Writing a Letter of Instruction

Understanding the Importance of a Letter of Instruction

A letter of instruction serves as a valuable reference document for those involved in handling your affairs after you’re gone. Unlike a will, this letter lacks legal authority. However, it provides a straightforward explanation of your estate plan to your executor and communicates specific wishes to your family that may not be covered by the will.

Moreover, this letter streamlines the complex inheritance process for your heirs. Regardless of the complexity of your estate, it details who should receive sentimental items that may not hold significant monetary value. Additionally, it provides clarity by listing your assets comprehensively and specifying the locations of essential documents, thereby easing the burden on your family.

These letters offer flexibility, enabling you to include personal messages and wishes for your family. It’s important to note that letters of instruction benefit not only personal matters but also serve business purposes, providing guidance and clarity to colleagues or successors in managing business affairs. Here’s a breakdown of what your letter of instruction should contain and how it can assist you with your estate planning needs.

Step by Step Outline for Writing a Letter of Instruction:


    1. Create a Header: Before diving into the content, establish a header at the top left corner. Include the date and recipient’s name and contact information, providing clarity on who the letter is addressing.
    2. Address the Reader: Once the header is created then begin with a greeting. Tailor your greeting based on whether the letter is directed to an individual or a group. The level of formality can vary depending on your relationship with the recipient.
    3. Explain the Project or Task: In the opening paragraph, briefly introduce the project or task, providing essential context for the instructions that follow. Include relevant details such as deadlines, goals, and contact information for project leaders.
    4. List Each Step: Present a numbered or bulleted list of steps, ensuring clarity and brevity. Each step should outline a specific task with clear procedures. Consider adding relevant information, such as contact details for queries or additional support.
    5. Conclude Your Letter: Wrap up the letter with a brief paragraph summarizing key points. Express gratitude or convey your enthusiasm for collaboration. Conclude with a professional sign-off, such as “Sincerely” or “Best wishes,” followed by your name.
    6. Revise the Document: Before dispatching the letter, thoroughly review and revise. Check for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. Confirm the accuracy of all information. Consider reading the letter aloud or seeking a second opinion to ensure clarity.

What is Included:

Although a letter of instruction lacks legal authority, it offers a clear overview of a person’s estate plan to their executor. Key components typically found in a well-crafted letter of instruction include:

    1. A comprehensive inventory of all assets.
    2. Information on the location of tangible assets that may not be easily accessible.
    3. Essential details about liquid assets, encompassing bank accounts, investment portfolios, retirement funds, and brokerage accounts.
    4. Contact details of professionals involved in asset management, such as bankers, attorneys, or brokers.
    5. Informal instructions regarding asset distribution, including sentimental possessions or heirlooms, often clarified beyond what’s stated in the will.
    6. Designated charities for potential donations.
    7. The whereabouts of crucial legal and financial documents, such as tax returns, birth certificates, wills, trusts, and property deeds.
    8. Contact information of beneficiaries named in financial accounts or estate planning documents.
    9. Details about safe deposit boxes and their corresponding keys.
    10. Contact information for creditors, including mortgages, credit card issuers, and lenders.
    11. Information about insurance coverage, particularly life insurance policies.
    12. Instructions for the care and arrangements for pets.
    13. Funeral Wishes – Help your family navigate challenging times by providing them with information on whom to contact and where to find necessary details for planning your funeral. Include details about any prearranged funeral arrangements, burial plots, and preferences for services.

By encompassing these vital elements, a letter of instruction provides clarity and direction, facilitating the estate settlement process for all involved parties.


Below are samples of what an actual letter of instruction would look like to give you an idea of its structure and content:


PERSONAL Letter of Instruction: Sample 1:


To Whom It May Concern,

In the event that I am unable to communicate my wishes directly, I have prepared this letter to provide guidance on handling my personal affairs. Please follow the instructions outlined below:

Part I: Funeral Wishes:

      • Contact [Funeral Home Name] at [Funeral Home Phone Number] to initiate the prearranged funeral plans.
      • Details about my burial plot are stored in the safe deposit box at [Bank Name], Box # [Box Number], and the key is in [Location].

Part II: Financial Details:

      • Contact [Employer Name] at [Employer Phone Number] regarding benefits and pension details.
      • For information on accounts, contact [Financial Planner’s Name] at [Planner’s Phone Number].
      • Important documents are stored in [Location], including [List of Documents].

Part III: Personal Effects:

      • [Family Member’s Name] is designated to oversee the distribution of personal items.
      • [Pet’s Name] should be cared for by [Pet Care Instructions].

This letter serves as a guide, and I trust those named will execute my wishes with care. Please ensure this letter is easily accessible and known to all concerned parties.

Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.


[Your Full Name] [Your Contact Information]


PERSONAL Letter of Instruction: Sample 2:

Dear [Executor’s Name],

In the event of my passing, I want to ensure that my affairs are handled smoothly. Below, you will find a detailed letter of instruction to guide you through this process.

      1. Inventory of Assets:
        • List of all assets, including:
          • Property: My residence at 123 Main Street, Anytown, USA.
          • Investments: Stocks and bonds held with XYZ Investment Firm.
      2. Location of Tangible Assets:
        • Some tangible assets are stored in my home safe at [Location], including valuable jewelry and family heirlooms.
      3. Details of Liquid Assets:
        • Bank accounts: Checking account with ABC Bank and savings account with DEF Credit Union.
        • Investment portfolios: Managed by XYZ Investment Firm.
        • Retirement funds: 401(k) with GHI Corporation.
      4. Contact Details of Asset Management Professionals:
      5. Asset Distribution Instructions:
        • Informal instructions regarding the distribution of assets, particularly sentimental possessions or heirlooms, to be discussed with family.
      6. Designated Charities for Donations:
        • Charities for potential donations: Local Animal Shelter and American Cancer Society.
      7. Location of Legal and Financial Documents:
        • All crucial legal and financial documents, such as:
          • Will: Stored in the safe at [Location].
          • Trust documents: Held by Attorney Sarah Johnson.
          • Property deeds: Filed with the county clerk’s office.
      8. Contact Information of Beneficiaries:
        • List of beneficiaries named in financial accounts or estate planning documents:
          • John Doe (son)
          • Jane Smith (sister)
          • Mary Johnson (niece)
      9. Details of Safe Deposit Boxes:
        • Safe deposit box at First Bank, Key kept in home safe.
      10. Contact Information for Creditors:
        • Mortgage: Acme Mortgage Company, Phone: 555-789-0123
        • Credit Card: Visa, Phone: 555-456-7890
        • Car Loan: ABC Auto Finance, Phone: 555-321-0987
      11. Information about Insurance Coverage:
        • Life insurance policies with:
          • ABC Life Insurance Company, Policy Number: 123456789
          • XYZ Insurance Co., Policy Number: 987654321
      12. Instructions for Pet Care:
        • Ensure the care and suitable arrangements for my beloved pets, Fido (dog) and Whiskers (cat), to be cared for by John Doe.
      13. Funeral Wishes:
        • Funeral arrangements:
          • Preferred Location: St. Mary’s Church, Anytown, USA
          • Specific Details: Simple cremation service, no wake, donations to American Cancer Society in lieu of flowers.

I trust you to handle my affairs with care and diligence. Should you have any questions or require further assistance, do not hesitate to contact my attorney, Sarah Johnson, at [Attorney’s Contact Information].

Thank you for undertaking this responsibility.

Sincerely, [Your Name]


CORPORATE Letter of Instruction: Sample 3


Project ABC Instructions

[Your Company Letterhead]


[Recipient’s Name] [Recipient’s Position] [Company Name] [Company Address] [City, State, ZIP Code]

Dear [Recipient’s Name],

Understanding the Project Landscape

I hope this letter finds you well. As we embark on Project ABC, I want to provide you with clear instructions to ensure its successful completion. Please follow the steps outlined below:

1. Project Overview: Begin by familiarizing yourself with the project overview document attached. It contains essential details, including goals, deadlines, and key contacts.

2. Task Breakdown: Refer to the attached document labeled “Task Breakdown.” This section outlines specific tasks with deadlines. Please prioritize tasks as indicated.

3. Point of Contact: For any project-related queries, contact [Project Leader’s Name] at [Project Leader’s Email] or [Project Leader’s Phone Number].

4. Weekly Progress Reports: Submit a brief progress report every Friday by 5:00 PM. Use the provided template and include details on completed tasks, challenges faced, and upcoming milestones.

5. Team Collaboration: Utilize [Project Management Tool] for task assignments and updates. Ensure all team members are on the same page regarding their responsibilities.

6. Final Review Meeting: Schedule a final review meeting on [Date] at [Time]. Present the completed project and be prepared to discuss challenges and lessons learned.

Thank you for your dedication to Project ABC. Your efforts are crucial to its success. Should you encounter any difficulties, do not hesitate to reach out.

Best regards,

[Your Full Name] [Your Position] [Your Contact Information]


In conclusion, mastering the art of writing a letter of instruction is a valuable skill for any leader. Whether guiding your team through a complex project or ensuring your personal affairs are in order, these letters serve as indispensable tools for clear communication and effective planning. Take the time to craft thoughtful and detailed instructions, and you’ll find that the benefits extend far beyond the act of writing itself.

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