There are so many concerns you have to face as the executor of an estate that it can be easy to overlook certain details. For example, an executor could miss assets hidden in unusual places if they don’t confirm with family members. They could also fail to consider possible complications to the estate, such as one or more family members attempting to illegally retain assets against the wishes of the testator.
The family home can sometimes be a major source of conflict in an estate. Perhaps it represented a substantial amount of money, so the testator wants you to sell it. However, the members of the family would prefer to retain it and do not have an interest in purchasing it when you list it for its fair market value.
Its contents, which could also represent a substantial amount of money, could wind up targeted by unscrupulous family members who want access to items they consider theirs, even if they were owned by the deceased party. As executor or estate administrator, it is your responsibility to secure the property and ensure that family members or heirs don’t take inappropriate or illegal actions.
If no one lives there, change the locks to secure the home
People can take uncharacteristically unscrupulous actions when a loved one dies. Just because someone usually behaves in an ethical and reasonable manner doesn’t mean they will while they are grieving the death of someone they love, such as a parent.
People may feel a sense of entitlement toward certain assets, even if they know that their loved one earmarked those possessions for someone else. Others may decide to attempt to assume tenancy of the property as a means of preventing you from selling it. They may believe that you won’t take the step of evicting them if they move in right away.
Changing all of the locks on the house is a good step. In fact, even if there is a tenant who will reside in the property until its sale, you may still want to change the locks so that you know that this individual and yourself are the only ones with a key.
Take inventory of the assets and consider if you need security
If you know there are certain items, such as art or jewelry, that family members are likely to target if they enter the home, you can move these to a secured storage site, in some circumstances. Other times, you may simply want to document its presence and then invest in a security system that includes cameras.
That way, if someone enters the property without permission and removes assets not bequeathed to them in the last will, you have documentation of their actions so that you can demand the asset back.
It is usually better to prevent these issues than to address them after the fact. This is why it is so important to validate the contents of the home and secure it against familial intrusion in the days or weeks leading up to its sale as part of the administration of someone’s estate.