An executor, also known in some states as a personal representative, has many different responsibilities associated with closing out an estate. This is why most people sit down with their estate planning lawyer to name their executor in their will. This person formally opens the probate process but continues to carry out many of the most important tasks with closing out the estate.
It is also the job of the executor to keep estate assets safe until they are turned over to the people who inherit them or until they are sold to pass on to creditors and to pay down debts.
This means that some precautionary measures need to be taken on behalf of the executor starting with safeguarding household and personal items. These are most likely to be sought after by family members who might not realize the formal probate or asset transfer process. This includes collectibles, jewelry, art and cash. Unfortunately, family members might try to help themselves to items that truly are not yet theirs.
You can tell everyone who is asking for certain pieces that it will take some time for you to evaluate all of the aspects of the estate before passing it on. Explain to any family members who are confused that you have a legal responsibility to ensure that even the smallest item in an estate is appropriately accounted for and that all proper procedures are being followed. Likewise, if the deceased owned real estate, make sure that it is properly secured with locks on the doors.
Unfortunately, homes of deceased individuals are often targets for thieves, especially those who are seeking drugs when the deceased party was on pain medication at the end of their life. Consider using things such as lights on, timers, and an affordable security system to maintain the property.
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