"Relatives face a financial paper chase after a beloved relative dies."
If after grandma passed away, you realize that she didn't leave a will, it can be a real mystery to unravel all that there was to her estate. MarketWatch says in "My wealthy grandmother left no will — how do we find her stocks and bonds?" to take your cue from Jim Rockford or Rick Castle.
The executor may have to do a lot of gumshoeing.
You can contact grandma's estate planning lawyer, if she had one, as well as anyone who had access to her home—like housekeepers, friends, and other relatives. You can also see if she had a safe deposit box at her bank and watch the mail for updates on any accounts.
According to recent research, women in particular are often faced with this problem when their spouse dies. Women are also less likely to know the terms of their spouse's life insurance policy (57% versus 69% of men) and less likely to locate family financial documents in an emergency (32% versus 21% of men).
Make sure that your financial documents are in a place where they can be located easily when you die. Unfortunately, there's no law that says we have to make out a master list of where our assets are located. The deceased had to have independently made a list. Also, it's not unusual for assets to go undiscovered: grandma may have had a bank account in northern Minnesota or a timeshare in Hawaii. If there's no documentation, you'd never know.
The surviving spouse will often need important documents like tax returns, birth certificates, and insurance policies. So do your better half a big favor now and get organized.
Reference: MarketWatch (April 30, 2016) "My wealthy grandmother left no will — how do we find her stocks and bonds?"