Business Trip from Hell
A few years ago I was working as an attorney and traveling for work. I was sitting in the middle of a cramped coach seat on a flight back home.
As I sat there waiting for the delayed flight to take off, the misery created inspiration. I decide to write a letter to my wife to outline the things that she would need to know or do in the event anything ever happened to me. There’s nothing like business travel to make you ponder your own mortality.
It was a love letter of sorts. The first part was a letter to let her know how much I loved her and a reminder that she should move forward living a happy life. The rest was an instruction manual containing all the things she would need to find and do if I passed away – where important documents are stored, a reminder of our life insurance policies, information about our financial accounts, and preferences about my final arrangements.
Like many couples, we divide up household responsibilities. I, for example, more closely manage our finances and am responsible for keeping track of important documents and agreements. So, for example, she knows that we both have 401ks but she may not remember that I had rolled over an old 401k from a former employer to an IRA at Betterment. She knows that I have multiple life insurance policies but she may not recall that my employer also has a small life insurance policy in my name. These little details would become incredibly important if I died and may be forgotten if I didn’t take steps to remind her.
There are also more morbid things that she needed to know. She knows my view on end-of-life medical treatment, but she may not know where to find a copy of my living will so that she could make sure that those wishes were complied with by my doctors. We have also discussed our preferences on what funeral arrangements we wanted but she may have thought that I was joking when I said, “just pick the cheapest thing possible, I
Those first few days after the death of a loved one can be overwhelming with grief. I wanted to provide her a road map to make it a little easier and to make sure that she had everything that she would need.
As I get older, it becomes even more important to memorialize this information. In addition to fading memories, someday, it may be my then-adult children who get the unfortunate responsibility of wrapping up my affairs.
As I sat on that plane typing out a letter, something struck me. Even as a trained attorney, it was difficult for me to wrap my hands around all the information that I would need to include in my letter. The number of questions to answer and preferences to express were overwhelming. The scope of the letter went far beyond the scope of traditional estate planning documents. It required an understanding of the legal process, financial and tax impacts, and practical needs. Maybe more importantly, it needed to deliver the information in a clear way that could immediately be used by my family.
Most people would have to do an extensive amount of research if they wanted to create a similar letter for themselves. There are some one-size-fits-all forms available online but they are not customized to your needs, have limited details, and leave your family without a roadmap to follow. In short, there were not any high-quality and structured ways to collect, organize, and share this type of information with loved ones.
Furthermore, since this is not a traditional estate planning exercise, most attorneys, financial planners, and CPAs were not ideally positioned to help their clients create a letter for themselves. Besides costing too much to have one of these professionals prepare a letter for you, it would also require you to share some of your most personal information with a stranger. Maybe more importantly, most people don’t have a will (55% of American adults do not have a will according to Gallup) and don’t interact with any of these professionals.
Even those people that do already have a will may not realize that much of the most important information is NOT included. You may have a will but it likely doesn’t include the details and preferences that your family will need. A will is an important part of your estate planning but doesn’t solve your families immediate needs of what to do and how to find the information they will need.
It’s difficult enough dealing with the grief of losing a loved one. I didn’t want to burden my wife further with the stress of trying to deal with this on her own. Or leave her guessing about what to do in those initial days and the following months (and sometimes years) that it takes to close out an estate. I also wanted the peace of mind of knowing that my family would have everything they needed. I took comfort in the fact that I could continue to help them, even when I was no longer there.
Unfortunately, when I went looking for a service to help me create my letter, but none existed.
Out of this experience, I created LastLtr.com. LastLtr.com helps to make this process easier and accessible to more people. You should not have to spend thousand of dollars or seek out the help of a professional to create a similar letter for your family. You can create a letter for yourself, for you and a spouse, or even for someone else (like an aging parent or relative).
Last Letter is a comprehensive online platform that guides you through a series of questions to create a personalized letter of your own. It starts by asking some questions to better understand your particular circumstances, e.g., are you married, do you have kids, are you a veteran, do you already have a will (it’s okay if you don’t have one). It uses this information to help identify which topics are the most relevant to you and your family. You are then guided through a series of easy to answer questions to collect the necessary information for your personalized letter.
We’ve done the research for you. The questions asked and what type of information is collected is the result of thousands of hours of painstaking research. You may not have thought to include the location where the title of your vehicle is stored or instructions for the care of any pets, but Last Letter has and will give you the opportunity to answer the questions that your family will ask.
You have complete control over what information is provided and what is included in your letter. So, for example, if you would rather not include any preferences on your final arrangements, that can be excluded. In addition to the practical items, you also have the ability to write a personal letter to your loved ones.
The information you provide is collected and organized into a more usable format. Your information is combined with a set of instructions and a personalized checklist that can be used by whoever receives your letter. The customized checklist is organized so that the recipient knows what needs to be done on the first day, first three days, first week, and in the weeks and months that follow. The checklist allows them to prioritize their activities and points them back to where more details can be found in your letter.
You have COMPLETE CONTROL over when, or if, your final letter is shared. There are multiple options. You can save or print a copy that you keep with your private files. Or, if you want, you can give trusted family members and/or friends access to a copy of your final letter on LastLtr.com. The people you give access to can view but not change your letter. By granting them online access to your letter, they are able to see the most current version of your letter, even if you make updates in the future. You can add, remove or change who can view your letter on LastLtr.com at any time.
We understand that circumstances and preferences change. As things change in your life you can update
While LastLtr.com can’t take away the pain and grief your loved ones are suffering, it will help them when they need it most. It has brought me so much peace of mind to know that my Last Letter will continue to help my family long after I’m gone. I can rest easy knowing that they will have all the information and instructions that they will need.
What are you waiting for? In less than one hour, you can finish your letter for your family. Be their hero by getting prepared and providing them with the information and instructions that they will need to in the event anything happens to you. START TODAY and help your family when you can no longer be there in person.
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This article is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have questions about your legal rights, responsibilities or options, you should consult with an attorney in your state.