Letter to Heirs -Update

Estate Planning is a necessary consideration for all individuals and families, regardless of age or net worth.  A simple, yet often overlooked tool to be used in coordination with an estate plan is a “Letter to Heirs.”  This unofficial document is a memorandum to your loved ones or potential beneficiaries of your estate, meant to be read after death.  The letter may advise the family of specific issues that will help accomplish your last wishes.

This letter can also be used to accomplish the provisions of Ark. Code Ann. Section 28-25-107 (1987), an Arkansas Law which allows parties to make a list of personal items of property, with designated recipients, attached to their Will subsequent to its execution.  Specifically, the law allows parties, after they have completed their Will, to create a handwritten or signed list of items they would like to specifically pass to certain member of their family or estate.

The letter clarifies requests to be carried out upon your death and provides essential information, thereby relieving surviving family members of needless worry and speculation. Issues to be addressed may include language you would prefer to be included in your Obituary, financial information, military records, and the location of valuable personal items or family heirlooms.

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Below is an example of items you may wish to consider:

“Dear Loved Ones,

*(obviously the letter will likely start with an emotional message to your family.  Following these sentiments, the “business” part of your letter will begin):

Please allow this letter to serve as the correspondence contemplated by Ark. Code Ann. § 28-25-107 (1987), which allows me to make disposition of tangible personal property by attaching or associating with my Will subsequent to its execution a statement and list signed by me designating the devisees of items of specific tangible personal property.  I desire to leave my coin collection to my Nephew, ____.  I desire to leave all of my artwork in my home to my Wife, ____.  (You can list as many items as you would like, here, whether or not they were included in your Will).

Further, I direct my Executor to a list of passwords and computer related information left in my safety deposit box with ABC Bank.  This list also includes information concerning my various investment accounts, banking accounts, and other financial data necessary to probate my Estate.  (We live in a complicated world, and all of your electronic data will need to be accessed after your death. So, make sure you have  a list of websites, blogs, and any other electronic sources (with passwords) you frequently access, and leave this where your Executor can find it upon your death). 

My safety deposit box also includes copies of my will; birth, baptismal, and marriage certificates; communion and confirmation certificates; diplomas; military papers; naturalization papers; and birth certificates for my children.  It also includes copies of tax returns, leases, and additional personal financial data.  Finally, it contains paperwork associated with the two businesses discussed further below.

I am a one-third owner of XYZ Business located in Little Rock, Arkansas.  My Partners and I have drafted Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws which specifically detail how my interest in the business should be handled upon my death.   Please work with my Partners to effectuate the terms of these agreements, which allow for my partners to purchase the business from my heirs based upon a formulated value agreed upon by the partnership as a whole. The line of credit for the business should be re-financed to remove my name.  You will find additional paperwork associated with my business in the bottom left-hand drawer of the desk in my office.

I own investment property in North Little Rock, Arkansas. It is owned in a LLC, and the co-owner and I have completed an Operating Agreement which states that in the event of my death, my family will receive a liquidated payment in an amount specified by the agreement.

I have pre-arranged funeral services with ABC Funeral Home.  It is my desire that I be buried next to my parents.   I would prefer that in lieu of flowers, donations are made to the Humane Society of Little Rock.  Please ensure that my obituary mentions by name all of my children and grand-children, including any that may have pre-deceased me.

Please notify the following organizations to which I belong of my death:  Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, XYZ Professional Association, and the Board of Directors of the Humane Society.  Please cancel my automobile insurance policy, disability policy, and credit life insurance.  Also please cancel my credit cards with Generic Department Store and Generic Bank.  I have a life insurance policy with Generic Insurance Company of Omaha, Nebraska.  My spouse has a copy of the policy.  (Include a list of all accounts, company names, and addresses). “

Write your letter clearly so that even a stranger could understand it. Be sure to sign and date your letter.  Consider whether to place this in your safe or safety deposit box, and whether to inform your Spouse or other loved  one as to its location.  As always, consult with our office concerning various additional ideas to be included with this letter, as well as to ensure you have a valid and complete Will, Trust, and effective agreements concerning your business and property holdings.  Email me anytime at clcox@csmfirm.com.)