topic | first days after death

Step 3: locate and secure valuables

Now that the property is secure, locate all valuables for safekeeping. Many people will be coming and going. Now is the time to take precautions to prevent damage, theft, or loss.

Activity 1
Take Inventory

Walk through the residence with another family member or heir. Take note of items that have monetary or sentimental value. Use Personal Items to record this information.

  • Do not give any items away, even as a keepsake, until proper procedures have been followed or the court approves.
  • Notify relatives and heirs that valuables will be secured.
  • Do not remove anything from the estate until you have itemized and logged the valuables.
  • Use of a video recorder may be helpful.

Activity 2
Secure all Valuable Items

  • Store televisions, stereos, works of art, or antique furniture in a storage facility.
  • Collect those items that can be broken, such as a glass vase, china, or crystal.
  • Gather valuable jewelry or collections, silver and gold, and place in a safe or storage facility.
  • Place furs and leather in proper storage.

Activity 3
Find Valuable Documents

As you sort through valuables, important papers may be discovered. Set them aside in a secure place. It may be difficult to know which papers are important, so it is best to save everything, and sort later. The following forms may contain information useful for locating important documents. If not, use them to record information as documents are located. Important Documents can be printed to track documents as they are located.

  • Employment Records, Safe Deposit Box, Liquid Assets, Accounts
    • pension or employment records or stubs
    • safe deposit box
    • certificate of deposits and treasury bills
    • savings bonds
    • bonds (certificates and name of broker)
    • check books
  • Deposits Deductions, Dues Subscriptions, Other Payments
    • Homeowners’ Association bills
    • gas/propane, electric, water bills
    • trash, pest control bills
    • heating / air conditioning bills
    • pool / spa, lawn / garden, snow removal
    • phone, cable television, Internet, computer subscriptions
    • auto, home, and health insurance
    • taxes
  • Insurance Policies, Life Insurance
    • home insurance
    • automobile insurance
    • life insurance
    • health insurance
    • vision and dental insurance
    • mortgage insurance
  • Personal Information, Legal Documents, Loans
    • birth certificate of the deceased and any minor children or dependents
    • Will
    • Trust
    • Social Security card and numbers of dependents
    • military discharge papers
    • citizenship papers
    • marriage license
    • income tax returns (past two years)
    • other taxes (such as property taxes)
    • business legal forms (articles of incorporation, partnerships, etc.)
    • divorce papers
    • loan or mortgage papers
  • Real Estate Records, Vehicles, Personal Property
    • real estate titles and appraisals (residence, vacation home, rental property, etc.)
    • vehicle titles (automobiles, motorcycles, boats, tractors, etc.)
    • household warranties (furniture, televisions, computers, etc.)
    • appraisals (jewelry, coins, artwork, guns, etc.)

Best Practices

If unsure where important documents are stored, check the likely places first including safe deposit boxes, home safes, desk drawers and filing cabinets. Also check:

  • stationary drawer in the kitchen or buffet cupboard
  • RV or other vehicles
  • basket on the counter that holds unpaid bills
  • glove compartment of the car
  • wallets and purses
  • workshop
  • den
  • briefcase
  • home office
  • gym (or other external) locker
  • desk at a business office
  • coat and jacket pockets

You may be surprised by the unlikely places you locate important papers. Don't underestimate the possibilities!

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