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Gathering documents and accounts after a death

When your loved one passes, there are documents you should make sure you have on hand to assist with final arrangements and estate resolution. Here are some of the records you should try to find, gather, and review, where to find them, and how to access digital assets and accounts. 

Legal documents and financial records to gather and review

These are some of the legal documents and financial records you may need following the loss of a loved one. 
Legal documents 
  • Original copies of the death certificate 
  • Social Security numbers (yours and the deceased’s) 
  • Trust documents 
  • Will 
  • Marriage certificate 
  • Divorce or child support documents 
  • Military discharge papers 
Financial records 
  • Insurance policies 
  • Mortgage and other loan statements 
  • Retirement account statements (IRAs, 401(k)s, pension plans) 
  • Nonretirement account statements (brokerage, mutual fund, annuities, etc.) 
  • Credit card account numbers and statements 
  • Current bank statements 
  • Beneficiary information on financial accounts and insurance 
  • Certificates of deposit 
Advance care directives are sometimes used to instruct survivors about funeral plans or wishes and to appoint an agent. Some states use specific forms for these kinds of plans and wishes, also known as letters of instruction (LOIs).1 

Locating legal documents and financial records after someone passes away

Ideally, you’d want to gather all necessary legal documents and financial records before your loved one passes away. But that’s not always possible.  
If you're not sure where to look for these important documents, here are some common places you might search. However, it’s important to know some of these places may only be accessible by the executor or surviving spouse. 
  • Computer: Some computers are password protected. If you don’t know the password, it can be difficult to get in—by design. If you’re unable to gain access to the computer, consider consulting with other loved ones or looking into a data recovery service. 
  • Files and safe deposit box: Getting inside a locked safe deposit box can be straightforward. With the proper documents, the executor can gain access to a safe deposit box even without a key. If there is no executor on file, or if the will is locked inside the safe deposit box, an order from the probate court may be needed to gain access. 
  • Mail: Continue to check the mail regularly for 60 to 90 days after your loved one’s death, for anything you may have overlooked. It might be helpful to check occasionally for another 6 to 12 months as not all financial services and institutions send regular statements. 
  • Tax returns: Reviewing tax returns from the previous 2 years should help identify any assets or tax credits carried from previous tax periods. 
  • Address book or email contacts: Contact attorneys, accountants, or financial advisors listed in your loved one’s address book or contact list, they may have access to the needed documents. 
  • Storage areas: Some personal records could be filed away in a box in a basement, attic, closet, or even a storage unit—so be sure to check potential storage locations. 
  • PO Box: An existing PO Box may have recently mailed records. 

Accessing digital assets and online accounts

Digital assets are electronic records that can include social media accounts, email, cryptocurrency, online bank accounts, music and movies, and personal photos and videos. Digital assets can have sentimental and monetary value. 
Accessing digital assets isn’t always simple. According to the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (FUFADAA), there are strict laws in place that prevent executors from accessing electronic communications like email, text messages, and social media accounts, unless your loved one (the account owner) granted permission in a will or other trust document or written record.2
Even if you have usernames and passwords to the account, without explicit permission and specification, you do not legally have the right to access digital assets—a court order is required. In some cases, online tools and social media accounts have a legacy contact feature that allows the user to choose who can access their account once they have passed. Other tools may prohibit transfer or access, and may delete everything stored once the death is reported.2
If you don’t have passwords or permission to access digital assets, there may not be much that can be done beyond finding the accounts that exist and working to close them. 

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1. Mark P. Cussen, “Letter of Instruction: Don't Leave Life Without One,” Investopedia, February 20, 2021, 2. "The Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA), Revised,” Uniform Law Commission,

This information is general in nature and provided for educational purposes only.

Fidelity does not provide legal or tax advice. The information herein is general in nature and should not be considered legal or tax advice. Consult an attorney or tax professional regarding your specific situation.