To complement your will, use this spreadsheet template to create a well-annotated roadmap to your physical and digital assets after death. This will help your executor and heirs locate your assets.
Why document where to find and how to access your physical and digital assets after death
Your wishes for the distribution of your assets after your death should be the subject of a will, which we believe every adult needs to have, but there are some important items that may not be covered in a will. Long after you are gone, there may be a phone, tablet, or computer whose password is unknown; an online bank or investment account that your will executor or heirs did not know about; logins to online accounts for photos or music that are unknown; online subscriptions that may continue to renew automatically and be auto-paid; email or text message accounts that may keep receiving messages; or a combination or key to a home safe which remains a mystery.
Below we list items to document and keep in a safe place for your will executor and heirs to access after you are gone. Most are related to your digital life, but we include some important non-digital reminders as well. We do not claim 100% completeness, nor are we providing legal advice here (see disclaimer at the bottom of this post), but we do hope that the checklist of suggested information which you might take the trouble to organize will prevent further anguish on the part of your heirs. It may also bring to mind additional data to document that is relevant to your circumstances
Template to document how to find and access your physical and digital assets after death
Part 1: A guide to the usage of the Template
We recommend the following items be documented using the Template for your will executor and heirs.
1. Funeral and memorial information to the degree not covered in your will
Type of funeral and service desired, funeral home pre-arranged (if any), disposition of body (burial, cremation, donation, etc.)
Organ donation instructions, if any
Preferred cemetery or other arrangements, location of cemetery plots if they exist and receipt if they are pre-paid
Memorial gathering requested, and optionally, a list of friends/family
2. Personal balance sheet
A two- part list, either in two groups of columns or two sheets. Part 1 lists all your financial assets, such as bank accounts, investment accounts, life insurance policy, tangible assets (such as jewelry, art, gold/silver, car, house), real estate owned, etc. Part 2 lists your liabilities or debts, such as mortgage balance, car loan balance, credit card balance.
Each item should have the name and address of the institution, account number, type of account, holder (just single or jointly with another), institution's web site, your login credentials (see further below), balance as of the date the balance sheet is last updated, and contact person and information (if any).
Note that singly-owned bank or investment accounts usually become “deceased accounts” and are essentially frozen upon notification of death to ensure that the proper heirs receive the funds.
3. Contact information your executor and heirs should know
You can either provide a list or refer your executor/heirs to a contacts file, providing login credentials to it. Examples of key entries are as follows:
Pet kennel for interim arrangement, and ideas for pet adoption
Banks, investment accounts, brokerage (or reference balance sheet items above)
Retirement funds, annuities
Financial advisor (if any)
Life Insurance provider (if any)
Long-term care insurer (if any)
Car insurance (to cancel or update)
Driver's license (to cancel)
Voter registration (to cancel)
Credit card accounts
Social security and Medicare (for notification)
Credit reporting agencies (for notification): In the US, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax
Professional contacts that need to know, such as clients, business partners, employer, employees
Friends and colleagues
4. Credit Cards
List of credit card accounts, with name and address, account number, holder (just single or jointly with another), web site, login credentials (see further below)
Under each credit card, which website or company has it on file (to be notified), and an indication as to which are automatic renewal subscriptions to be canceled or accounts to be closed
Identify online payment accounts such as PayPal, Venmo and similar accounts to be closed
5. Recurring Bills
Unless you already indicated in section 4 above which recurring bills are charged to a credit card, here make a list of recurring payments that need to be made.
Include payments to credit card issuers, home mortgage or rentals, utilities, insurance premiums, memberships, subscriptions, cable/satellite or streaming services, etc.
Delineate which need to be stopped and account closed, which need to be continued until the residence is vacated and the monthly due dates, and which are currently automatically deducted from a checking account.
6. Telephones, tablets, laptops, computers
A list of devices and their typical location(s)
Telephone numbers to be canceled (note that your mobile phone may need to be kept active for a while for the purpose of receiving login codes via text messages; this technique (known as 2-factor authentication) is used for verifying your identity when you try logging into some of your sensitive accounts.
Passwords to enter each device
7. Login credentials to sites
Credentials to enter your computer’s password management software, if you use a password manager (strongly recommended); otherwise, make a list of all your website accounts, their URL, user ID, password, and any other data they require to enter your account, such as answers to “challenge questions” or identifying which of your devices is used for two-factor authentication.
Note the proviso mentioned earlier that assets of value, including but not limited to funds in bank and investment accounts, may not typically be accessible by heirs of the singly-owned accounts of the deceased until the will provisions are processed by the executor and possibly go through probate, but there are plenty of other online accounts that the executor or heirs may wish to know about. Examples are subscriptions that need to be terminated, email accounts, photo accounts whose pictures need to be saved, digital documents in a cloud storage account, or life insurance account information so that a claim could be filed by beneficiaries.
8. Home services
Make a list of home or personal service providers that need to be notified. Note that some, such as the ones asterisked below, may need to be maintained until the residence is vacated/sold. Identify those scheduled for auto-payment through credit card or bank accounts to help ensure those services are not severed prematurely.
Alarm company *
Warranties/service contracts *
Lawn, landscaping service *
Snow-removal service *
Pest-control service *
Cable or satellite service
Subscriptions (e.g., news, recipes, puzzles), both print and online
9. Domains owned
Make a list of domains you have registered and the domain registrar website and account credentials
For each one, designate whether the domain is hosted as a website and/or an email service, and if so, which company is the host (note that these may have value)
For each one, make a list of email addresses
Make a list of email accounts you own not included in the above (perhaps you have one or more private email accounts that need to be closed)
10. Where are items?
This is a list of other physical items whose location may not be obvious
Will and possibly trust documents
Safe, home (location, key or combination)
Safe, bank (bank name, branch, address, key or combination)
Keys to house and car
Home alarm box location, location of keys, monitoring company, alarm codes to turn off
Social Security documents
Other health insurance documents: how to stop auto-payment of health insurance premiums
Life insurance (if any)
Deed to the house
Car title and registration
Keys to post office or mail service box
Keys to car
Location of car (and other vehicles) title and registration
Receipts documenting purchase price of valuable possessions
11. Other items
A list of other valuable information that does not fit into one of the other categories. Examples might be cryptocurrency and digital wallet information, or location and access to a storage unit or locker.
Part 2. With whom to share and where to keep such a roadmap document safely
1. Keep this document somewhere safe. There are several options:
Maintain a paper copy only and store in a safe and secure place. This is less convenient to maintain over time, and selecting a location that is secure yet accessible to and only to authorized parties when you have departed may be a challenge.
Keep a digital Word or Excel file, secured with a password and encryption, on an external storage device such as a thumb drive, and hide the flash drive somewhere secure that you and someone you trust (see below) can remember. You would need to convey the password and/or the decryption key to the trusted party. A disadvantage of this method is that the list could get forgotten or lost.
Keep a digital file on your computer, secured with a password and encryption. If you use an encrypted cloud account, that will save this list in an encrypted form synchronized on your computer. Be sure to inform your trusted third party how to access this document.
2. Make sure someone you trust, in addition to your spouse or life partner, if any, has knowledge of the location of the list and how to access it.
Your spouse or partner with whom you live has a chance of passing with you in a common accident. Therefore provide access to and/or give a copy to someone else you trust. This could be a family member or close friend that you trust, the will executor, or your estate attorney. If you provide a copy of the list to such a person we suggest it be either in person in digital form such as a hand-delivered flash drive, or if you email it, use both a password on the file and an encrypted email service. Convey any necessary passwords or decryption methods to access this checklist to the recipient orally
Think about all the private information you have in this digital age. As part of your estate planning, make a list of where to find and how to access your digital assets and other private data as well as your physical assets.
There is not anything in this post that should be construed as legal advice. Rather, this post provides general educational information, which is believed to be valid. Consult your attorney for guidance specific to your needs.