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Finding unexpected information about your loved one

While you’re going through your loved one’s things, you may discover secrets you weren’t meant to see or facts that your loved one neglected to mention. Even if they’re happy secrets, the revelation can be very unsettling.

Accessing your loved one’s safe-deposit box

After a loved one passes away, you may need to see inside their safe-deposit box to know what to do with its contents. You will need some paperwork, and, depending on the state and the bank, a court order, and then the bank will let you look inside.

What to do when you can’t find important documents

Sometimes you need an original copy of one of your loved one’s documents and it is nowhere to be found. For most of these documents there is a set procedure for obtaining a new official copy, if you have the right information and documentation.

Loss is hard. Its vocabulary shouldn’t be.

We speak the specialized language of estates and funerals so you don’t have to.


The person appointed by the court to handle the estate of someone who dies without a will.

The duties of an administrator are similar to those of an executor, but as there is no will to execute, he or she is named administrator and distributes assets according to a procedure dictated by state law.


The sum total of someone’s net worth, including all assets. From a legal standpoint, an estate is not simply everything the person owns, but the value of all of these assets minus any debts or other liabilities. Estates are calculated differently depending on their purpose.
For example, the taxable estate may include assets that are not in the probate estate.


A service held to commemorate someone’s life. Memorials are generally considered distinct from funerals in that they are held without the body present and are not focused on the burial, although services where the urn with the loved one’s ashes is present are also called memorials. Traditionally, a funeral is a more formal service while memorials are often more unstructured.

To see the full glossary