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Some states seal the safe deposit box on the death of an owner. Even co-owners cannot access the box until the taxing authority assesses its value. If your box is in one of these states (check with your bank), do not store materials there that your survivors will need within eight weeks of your death. Even in states that do not seal boxes, do not store materials that your survivors will need within the first week of your death. For more tips about using your safe deposit box wisely, see the Secured Places and Passwords section in Get It Together.

In your will, you can name a guardian and a property manager for your minor child in the event of your death or the death of both parents. Without such a provision in your will, the courts will appoint the guardian and property manager. Draw up this important legal document to ensure your wishes are set out clearly. For more information about providing for your children in your will, see the Children section in Get It Together.

Beneficiaries of your retirement accounts are named directly on the account paperwork, not in your will, living trust, or other estate planning document. Ensure that your beneficiaries are named according to your wishes - by name, in the proportion you wish, and with alternates of your choosing (in case a beneficiary predeceases you). See Retirement Plans and Pensions in Get It Together for more about what will happen to your accounts once you've passed away.

Sadly enough, newspaper obituaries can serve as notice to burglars that a home will be vacant during a funeral or memorial service. If you are arranging a service for a loved one, also arrange for someone to housesit during the service - a neighbor, a familiar service provider (such as a housekeeper or gardener), a church member, or the reception caterer. For more help in handling the tasks that follow a loved one's death, see the Instructions section in Get It Together.

You may find that writing a last letter to your loved ones is just too difficult. There are some good alternatives - and your family and friends will find these no less dear once you have passed on. Consider keeping a journal to be shared, or making something special - a cassette or videotape, a greeting card, a personal poem or story, or a transcribed quote or scripture passage. See Get It Together for additional guidance in writing a Letter to Loved Ones or creating an alternative.

While you are simplifying your life through automatic bill-pay, you are setting up a messy situation for your survivors - an overdrawn checking account or recurring charges hitting your credit card. For some, gas, electricity, and telephone service may be threatened; for others, the mortgage or insurance policies may be in jeopardy. Leave a trail for your loved ones so they can avoid these problems. For help in describing this information, see Secured Places and Passwords in Get It Together.

In some areas, the SPCA or Humane Society will find a good home for your pet when you die. Also, many veterinary schools will take in your pet if you have left an endowment to the school, or an animal sanctuary will work with you to arrange care for your pet. If your pet won't have a home when you're gone, you may want to make arrangements with one of these organizations. See the Pets and Livestock section in Get It Together for more assistance in planning for your animals.

While your loved ones may be familiar with your business, they may not be able to answer these questions: How much of the business do you own? What should happen to the business if you are incapacitated - or when you die? Who should your loved ones contact? In your planner, you can set out important background and direction for your survivors. For help with documenting this information, see the Business Interests section in Get It Together.

If you are interested in reading more tips - both for using Get It Together as well as related topics - see the Nolo website at There you will find many related resources, plus hundreds of free articles on estate planning and other essential legal topics.

Get It Together - Home Page Tips For Using News and Reviews Frequently Asked Questions Contact Melanie Buy the Book