Estate Planning: Passwords, Access Keys and PINs

In an age of ever-increasing reliance on digital information storage, password and other access code management has become a critical (but often overlooked) part of estate planning. After your death your Will Executor will be responsible for administering your estate. In order to do so effectively, he or she will need access to all documents and information related to your property, bank accounts, and other assets.

You should consider developing (and periodically updating) a list of important accounts and services with their corresponding access information. You may want to include the following items on your list:

  • Computer login and password
  • Email login and password
  • Online banking login and password
  • Debit card PIN
  • Passwords for cellular phones and other electronics
  • Location and access information for physical documents and items (e.g. safes and safe deposit boxes)

You can provide this information to your Executor in a Letter of Instruction, which should ideally be stored in a safe at your home. Do not use a bank safe deposit box to store this letter or other documents that need to be accessed quickly, as it likely will not be able to be opened until after your Will has been read and implemented.

Although there are also password-storing services available online, storing a physical document in a safe in your home is probably the simplest method. Just be sure your spouse, Will Executor, or attorney has the code needed to access this Letter of Instruction.

See Do Your Own Will's Estate Planning Checklist for additional estate planning considerations.