I helped a friend's widow and a helper sort through three sheds full of "stuff" over the weekend. Neither of them had any idea what anything was. I sorted the parts of his 7 project, a disassembled Lotus Eclat (she'll sell it for $1000, if anyone is interested), model airplanes, and so forth. I made a big pile of tools in one shed. Apparently when he was finished with something he just dropped it on the floor wherever he happened to be and walked away.
Ron died of a brain tumor at 52. I never expected to live to 52, and now that's looking young... he was always a bit odd, but nobody knew, for example, that he'd been storing years' worth of smoked cigarette butts in metal coffee cans in the laundry room, along with a big cardboard box of empty Swisher Sweet cigar packets.
There are still two rentals full of "stuff" to go through, plus his study, which had a narrow trail from the door to his desk, the "stuff" piled to the ceiling. Jamie and her sister just opened the door and threw stuff in until that was full too, and body-slammed the door shut while cleaning up for the relatives who came in from out of town. I'll have to sort all that out over the winter, along with great masses of paper in various boxes and bins.
Over on some of the machinist's forums I'm on this sort of thing isn't unusual, though the "stuff" can be a lot more valuable. One widow was thrilled that someone picked up "that crap" from the garage for free; a couple of people who'd been there guesstimated $75,000 worth of Deckel, Hardinge, and Monarch equipment and tooling, even at fire-sale prices.
I'd occasionally thought about building some kind of inventory list for my wife, should I die. That's moved up quite a bit on the "to-do" list.
My wife is a packrat, and I imagine she'd be just fine with making sure the door to the workshop is locked... and she'd probably never go in there again, as she has no interest in what's in there. And other than some some car parts and hand tools, none of my friends would be much interested. But there's a reasonably well-equipped machine shop in there that, properly split up and sold off, would give her some extra money she'll probably need, eventually.
She's as much of a gunhead as I am, so she'd probably want to keep them all, but I still need to write down some approximate values and some dealers who might be interested. There are also a couple of pieces with ATF paperwork, which would have to be formally transferred to her. No big deal, but it would have to be done before any could be sold, and the ATF seems to have a "90 days before we process your papers" policy on almost everything.
During the tornado season earlier this year I gathered up all the important papers (yeah, I'd gotten slovenly), sorted them, threw away what wasn't needed any more, grouped them in file folders, and put them in a hanging file. I also scanned copies of most of them onto multiple DVDs and USB keys, which went into our bug-out bags, so at least all the stuff is together, even if a lot of it really should be in the almost-empty safe deposit box we're paying for.
(and this from a friend who would up sorting and cleaning out a mutual friend's effects) If you have a [NWS PORN] collection, consider that various people are going to see it, and make comments on it that will eventually get back to your family. This also applies to pictures and e-mail on your computer.
And speaking of computers, it's a good idea to write down logins and passwords somewhere, particularly for online banking, bill payment, etc. I use a little spiral notebook I keep beside my keyboard. I know others who use USB sticks.