What My Family Should Know When I Die: An End-Of-Life Checklist

What financial facts would your family need to know if you became incapacitated or unexpectedly died? What documents would you need to gather, and what questions should you answer before the need arises? 

I’ve been managing my aging parent’s finances for a few months now, but I still have many questions. Yesterday, my dad and I sat down to discuss my parents’ money. In doing so, we created an end-of-life checklist I think everyone should complete.

End-Of-Life Checklist

I cannot improve my dad’s medical condition or prevent cancer from invading his body, but I can be productive and helpful during this trying time.

As we gather documents and discuss details, I feel a great sense of peace and purpose. Gathering the facts of an end-of-life checklist ensures my family and I know everything we should before my dad dies.

None of us knows what day will be our last, so we shouldn’t wait to complete an end-of-life checklist ourselves. As soon as I finish documenting my dad’s details, I plan to record my own.

Gather Required Documents

So, where did we begin? The first step is to gather official documents and let someone in the family know where you placed them.

Here are the most important ones to find first:

  • Will
  • Medical Power of Attorney
  • Financial Power of Attorney
  • Living Will

After you locate that paperwork, search for official documents, including:

  • Social Security Cards
  • Birth Certificates
  • Marriage Certificates
  • Driver’s Licenses
  • Military ID Cards
  • Military Discharge Papers
  • Life Insurance Policies
  • Property Deeds
  • Cemetery Plots
  • Vehicle Titles
  • Certificates for Collectibles and Artwork

If you choose to place this documentation inside a safe, provide someone with the key or passcode. If you don’t trust anyone in your close family, give the details to a lawyer or distant relative who can hold the information until the need arises to share it.

Don’t forget this important detail. Someone must know the combination or code!

Talk to Your Family About Your Efforts

After gathering the documents, provide the list to your spouse and children. If you become incapacitated, your family will need to know where to find your POAs or health care directives. If you’ve written a will, you’ll want to tell your family where to locate it after you die.

You don’t need to tell your family how you divided your assets or how much money your children will inherit. Instead, say, “I finished my will and gathered important paperwork. When I die, here is where you can find them.”

If you are worried about someone getting ahold of your will before you die, leave it with your lawyer. Then give your children or beneficiaries the name and number of your attorney. 

Avoid a Safe Deposit Box

If your parents use a safe deposit box, make sure numerous family members can access it. Many of these documents need to be accessible shortly after death. 

Without the proper authorization, you won’t be able to get into it. If you own one, make sure someone you trust has the authority to open it.

Some paperwork is required shortly after your loved one dies. For example, to bury someone in a veteran’s cemetery, you need proof they are a veteran. 

If you can’t access military discharge papers, you’ll need to search for other burial options. You can’t afford to wait weeks or months for authorization to open that safe deposit box.

My parents used to store their documents in a safe deposit box, but I encouraged them to bring them home and move them to a locked, fireproof box instead.

Record Usernames, Passwords, Access Codes, and PINs

After gathering your paperwork, it’s time to document your usernames, passwords, access codes, and PINs. Include all savings accounts, checking accounts, cryptocurrency, annuities, 403bs, 401ks, IRAs, and 529s.

The most critical passcode might be the one that unlocks your cell phone. If you trust your family, give someone access to it by giving them the code, adding their fingerprint, or setting up Apple’s Face ID.

If you are leery of sharing this information before your death, write down the details and place it in the same location as the official documents listed above.

Requirements for Two-Step Verification

Next, write down the password to your primary email account—the one you use for online banking and utilities. Many online bank accounts require two-step verification, which means a good, old-fashioned username and password isn’t enough to gain access anymore. 

Many secure systems won’t provide access until you enter a code sent to email or SMS. If you can’t get into your loved one’s email or cell phone, you won’t be able to access their accounts, so make sure to document email addresses, passwords, and cell phone codes.

Email and text messaging are also required for resetting passwords. If the list of passwords isn’t kept up to date, having access to email and SMS messages will allow you to reset them.

Where Do You Keep Your Money

Next, document where you keep your money. List the bank names, account numbers, usernames, and passwords.

Documenting this information may seem like all you need to do, but don’t forget about the secret places you like to squirrel cash, gift cards, and jewelry.

People stash cash in all sorts of strange places. Do you keep a wad under your favorite potted plant, inside a shirt pocket hanging in your closet, or on the underside of your desk drawer? 

You’d be surprised how many people keep their money hidden in their homes. You don’t want your loved ones digging through every nook and cranny, turning every vase over, and picking through every coat and shirt pocket in search of spare change.

Include a note about all of the previously unknown places where you hide money. You’d hate for your loved ones to throw out an old shoebox, not knowing you stuffed thousands of dollars into the toe of some old ratty boots you owned.

Pensions, Insurance & Work-Related Details

If you have access to a pension, write down the details of your previous employer. Many pension programs have survivor benefits for spouses and children. Is there a specific benefits number to call if you die or a department to contact?

Gather this information in advance so your relatives aren’t digging around for information after you pass. If you have life insurance through your company, include your employer’s name and contact number.

Please document your insurance policies so your family knows you have them.

You Don’t Have to Share Financial Details.

Money is still taboo in many families. If your family struggles to talk about money, remember that you don’t have to provide any financial figures at this time.

You don’t have to provide the amount of your life insurance policy or the total amount of assets you own. At this point, you don’t have to tell anyone how much money you have. 

You aren’t creating a net worth chart; you’re generating a list of locations where you store financial assets. Write down the details and place your notes alongside the documents you gathered.

You can keep this list locked up, but make sure people know how to find the details and access codes after you die.

Keep Money From Getting Lost

The truth is, your money can get lost if you don’t tell people about it.

Imagine paying for twenty years of life insurance but failing to tell your children you have an active policy. Your children won’t reap the benefit if you don’t tell them you purchased a policy.

The same is true for royalties, annuities, bank accounts, pensions, CDs, savings bonds, lottery payouts, and stock shares. 

Tell your family about these financial windfalls, so they don’t wind up on an unclaimed property list.

Document Other Assets

Write down the locations of boats, motorcycles, and cars. Include keys, permits, titles, license plate numbers, and VINs.

If you have a loan on these items, search for your financing documentation. If you can’t find it, write down the name of your finance company and when the last payment is due. That way, your family can continue to pay your bills when you are incapacitated or gone.

If you own a storage unit, keep a copy of the key or entry code alongside the contract, so your family can continue to pay for service until it’s cleaned out.

Reward Credit Cards, Loyalty Programs, and Subscriptions

If you use reward credit cards or loyalty programs, record the program’s name and the username and password you use to access it.

Unfortunately, if you don’t share this information, your family won’t be able to take advantage of the free flights, hotel rooms, and other rewards you’ve earned.

Lastly, keep a list of subscriptions and memberships. If you’ve paid for a yearly subscription to Netflix, Amazon Prime, or GrubHub, your family might as well use them.

As with everything else, list the usernames and passwords for these too.

Photos, Heirlooms, and Mementos

Lastly, gather up your favorite photographs, heirlooms, and mementos. If you find yourself surrounded by a sea of digital photos, do your best to delete the ones you don’t love or archive the ones you do.

Tell your family where they can find the best ones. Are they stored on hard drives, Google Drive, or your iPhone?

It’s tough to let go of childhood toys and a lifetime of memorabilia. Write notes about your possessions if you find it challenging to get rid of them.

Tell your loved ones why they mean something to you and why you’ve kept them. Then write a note saying, “While these items gave me great joy, you can do whatever you want with them after I’m gone. It’s ok to let them go.”

Digital Archiving

Some online applications, like Facebook, allow you to list a legacy contact after you pass away. Your legacy contact will have the ability to manage tribute posts on your profile, decide who can see your posts, request the removal of your account, respond to friend requests, and update your profile picture and cover photo.

Apple iCloud and Google Inactive Account Manager also provide ways for you to name a legacy contact who can access and download your data after your death.

Instagram can memorialize a profile after receiving proof of death, which typically includes a death certificate. Twitter won’t memorialize accounts, but they will shut down a profile after receiving valid documentation.

Funeral Wishes

After you finish the steps above, you’ll want to include details about your funeral wishes. Do you want to be buried or cremated? Have you purchased a burial plot or prepaid for funeral expenses?

Thinking about death isn’t easy, but writing down your wishes is essential. You don’t want to burden family members with these decisions after your death.

Take the time to document your desires, so family members aren’t left wondering how to proceed while mourning your loss.

Write Letters to Those You Love

Lastly, if you can muster the strength and push through the strong emotional feelings, it helps to write letters to those you love. Tell your family members and friends how much they mean to you, and take this time to say what matters most to you.

You can take this time to write your eulogy too!

Completing Your End of Life Checklist

To complete your end-of-life checklist you’ll need to gather official documents, record usernames, passwords, and access codes, and write down the details and locations of your assets.

You’ll also want to include plans for archiving your digital legacy and writing notes to those you love.

I am grateful for the opportunity to help my parents finalize their plans and document their finances. They feel a great sense of peace in completing their end-of-life checklist, and so do I.

10 thoughts on “What My Family Should Know When I Die: An End-Of-Life Checklist”

  1. I executed my parents’ significant estate after they both had passed. The thing that made it the easiest is that the will didn’t matter. Almost all the assets were in bank and brokerage accounts so they passed directly to my brother and me with no probate at all. That only happens if you elect to have all your accounts payable on death, POD, to your beneficiaries. That’s the biggest favor you can leave to your heirs.

  2. Thank you for this. I found quite a few gaps in my TEN page financial information document. And I just quickly created a brief obituary for both my husband and me. This past month, two different friends stopped procrastinating and met with an attorney to update their wills and other documents. Documenting your experience (pun?) has truly helped a lot of people!

  3. Thank you for your wonderful articles! I love them all! I printed “Managing and Protecting My Elderly Parents’ Finances” last summer and shared it with my parents. My mother started showing me all their hiding places (basement workroom, bedroom closet, shirt pocket, underwear drawer). I felt overwhelmed as nothing got written down. This weekend, I put your Finances list in a spreadsheet and sat with my parents and played the question game and documented where stored and account numbers. We had special time together and the comfort of feeling more organized and better prepared for the future.
    They both have medical issues (87 and 92 years old) so of course this led to the list of doctors, medications, surgeries. I promised them that topic would be next spreadsheet with help from your article “Keeping Your Medical Records Could Save Your Life”.
    I have 1 sister and 2 brothers who are all very supportive of my parents. I am designated medical person and my sister is designated financial person. It is hard to face the fact that our parents will not be with us forever. We cherish every minute with them. Love works that way.
    Thanks for your support Jewels! Prayers for your father.

    • @Pat M, I’m so happy you found my articles helpful and used them to document financial details with your parents. Thank you for letting me know!

  4. Hello, In the event of a sudden death there are a few things to consider. I had a sibling die suddenly (no spouse). They had all the important paperwork together. The things that were most frustrating (and time consuming) were things we didn’t think about right away, like online subscriptions. Streaming services are pretty obvious.

    But we didn’t realize they had Geek Squad and Norton auto pay subscriptions. Both needed copies of the death certificate and more paperwork than you would think. There was also an HP Ink Subscription and a furnace filter subscription. Who knew? I like the idea of a binder with all these things included.

    It would also have helped to know where they kept their tax file and what company they used to complete them. Their Dog: what vet do they use? We needed over night accommodation for the first week or so. It would have been helpful to know the kennel they already use (all the pup info was already recorded). We found that most kennels in our area have wait lists. We didn’t need the stress at that to find a safe place for the dog away from the hubbub.

    A sudden death, especially of a young person, can be pretty traumatic. Ease your families pain by documenting oddball items ahead of time.

  5. Thank you so much for this information. We have all the papers we need (both aged 78) but putting this all in one place was invaluable. Thank you!!


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