When someone passes away and you are in charge, one of the top priorities is securing the house. In order to do this, you need to start with the following five steps.
1. Take care of the lights, mail, etc. to keep criminals from thinking the house is vacant.
Use automatic lights and don’t let mail or newspapers pile up on the porch. Just think about things you might do when going on a long vacation.
2. Change the locks…maybe.
In most cases, you want to change the locks in case someone else out there has an extra key. However, if there are tenants, you cannot change the lock without a court order in New York. If you do, you could be charged with a crime. If there is a possible tenant (even your sister or cousin), don’t change the locks.
3. Winterize the home.
This can mean different things in different parts of the country. Take into consideration things like pipes freezing or bursting or snow piling up on a roof. Make sure you don’t incur any additional damage based on the weather. Probate can take a long time, so start thinking about winterizing in the beginning.
4. Set a routine to check in on the home or ask a neighbor to check in.
If you live close, you could drive by often. If not, you can ask someone to routinely check on it for you. You want to make sure that the home is in good shape and there is no criminal activity.
5. If you live in New York – tell the doorman.
There could have been a dog sitter or cleaning person who has ongoing access to the apartment. The best person to stop that (a gatekeeper) is the doorman. Let him know that your loved one has passed away and there is to be no more plant watering, dog walking, or house cleaning until someone is appointed to do that.
To learn more, read my book “How Probate Works.”