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So, you’ve been left in charge of someone’s estate and everyone seems to be clamoring at your door with requests.

Your brother, Bob, wants you to hand over Dad’s watch because it was always promised to him. Your cousin, Anne, wants the silver tea set she was supposed to inherit. A nephew and his wife have volunteered to help clean out your Dad’s fridge and tidy the house up.

Well, tell everyone to hold on a minute. Your nephew and his wife may have honest intentions, but you can’t have them traipsing through your Dad’s house. If something goes missing, you’re the person who will be held accountable. Sure, your Dad’s will does leave the watch to Bob and the tea set to Anne, but both of those items are currently property of the estate — until probate is settled and done.

We see these kinds of problems often. Even if everyone is honestly just aiming to collect what they believe is theirs by right, it can create problems for the executor (you). So, here are some of the first steps you need to take to secure your loved one’s estate:

  • Change all the locks on the house and the garage. You have no real idea how many spare keys your loved one handed out or if there’s one hidden somewhere nearby under a rock.
  • Secure the keys to any large pieces of machinery, like cars, trucks, boats and even riding lawnmowers. Put them on a special keyring and take it with you.
  • Do a sweep of the house for small, easily portable (and valuable) items that need to be secured until they can be disbursed properly. This can include watches, jewelry, small pieces of art, musical instruments, bearer bonds, coin collections and more.

Once you’ve had time to take a better look at what needs to be done to execute your loved one’s estate, those things can be handled. Assure the people who expect to inherit that they’ll receive whatever they are due in the proper time — once you’ve accounted for everything and handled all your probate and estate administration responsibilities properly.