I know that it is very hard to deal with the death of a family member, make arrangements for the funeral, and at the same time think about practical considerations, but there are certain things that you need to take care of right away.
1. Change the locks. I know how this sounds, but as my grandmother was fond of saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. You don’t know who has a key, and a death sometimes brings out the worst in people. That includes family members, friends, neighbors, caregivers, etc.
2. If you can’t change the locks right away, secure the valuables. That means packing up the jewelry, (including what you think is just costume jewelry), the silver, and anything else that is valuable and can be slipped into a pocket. And don’t forget the Will, the credit cards, and the checkbook.
3. Have someone stay at the house during the viewing and the funeral service. This prevents thieves from looting the house while you are at the funeral.
4. Make an appointment with an attorney right away. There are certain documents that need to be filed with the Probate Court so that you can be appointed Executor. Once you are appointed, the Probate Court will issue certified “Letters of Authority” (also called “Letters of Appointment”) that state you are the Executor. You’ll need these to close bank accounts, liquidate investment accounts, forward mail, etc.
5. Don’t throw away or donate any of the personal property until you’ve had an estate sale professional look at it. What you think is junk might be valuable.
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