man unpacking moving box

Sorry that you died last month. RIP.

Well, anyway, you left us and now I am dealing with the aftermath. I looked high and low and couldn’t find a list of what you owned. Seriously, dude, could you not have taken 5 minutes out of your day and put together a folder with some information? 

I don’t want to complain, but after I found your safety deposit box key loose in a drawer, we had to look up the imprint on it that provided the bank’s routing number. That led me to your bank, which of course has numerous branches. Would your bank cooperate with me? Of course not! I finally had to get a court order so the bank would disclose where your safety deposit box was located and let me access it. The only thing I could do when it was opened – with a banker present, of course – was pull out your original will and let the lawyer take it. 

Keeping your will in your safety deposit box was a bad idea. So was keeping your burial instructions in there. We had no idea you wanted to be buried instead of cremated. Sorry about that. 

After all that, my lawyer filed an application with the court to probate your will. Why didn’t you update it after all the people you had named as executor died? Lord knows who will be named to serve as executor now. 

I cannot login to your phone or computer since you did not leave any passwords. All those online records and accounts are going to eventually need court orders to access. 

And your huge bitcoin investment? Without your private key, those are gone with the wind, my friend.

I had no idea about your holdings, so I had to do a public-records search that included a search of court files, county deed records and business records filed with the Secretary of State just to see if you owned any real property, were involved in a lawsuit, or had an interest in a closely held business. Each positive hit led to more investigation. I bet I spent a full day tracking information down.

I am still looking for your corporate record books. I suppose your lawyer has copies. Too bad I don’t know who your lawyer was. 

I contacted your former employer to see if you were entitled to unpaid benefits, had a life-insurance policy or a retirement account through the employer.

I think you had a few more life insurance policies and an annuity contract or two, but of course you did not leave a copy anywhere. I had to complete an on-line request form with the Texas Department of Insurance. They are supposed to give my request form to the companies who are voluntarily participating in the service, and then, if they have a life insurance policy or annuity on you, those companies should contact me.

I also looked on the unclaimed property website for each state that I remembered you lived in. I probably did not get all of them.

And then there was your storage unit. I know you had one because you talked about it, but I can’t find a key or rental agreement. That one has me worried, because if the rental fees are not paid then the stored property may be sold to satisfy the lien on the property. Time is not on our side. 

Alive, you were a good friend. Dead, you are a nightmare. 


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Virginia Hammerle is in her fourth decade of practicing law. She is Board Certified in Civil Trial by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and an Accredited Estate Planner. Contact her at or visit This column does not constitute legal advice.