E272 What Happens to Personal Effects When Someone Dies?
Sometimes the small personal effects can have a big impact. It may be the irreplaceable keys to the loft, the invaluable smartphone, or treasured photos in the wallet.
What are personal effects?
They are usually personal property; items of particular significance that are carried or worn. These can be wallets, jewelry, phone, keys, etc. Items above a certain value, like a diamond engagement ring, fall into a different category.
If she died in a care facility?
Sadly, more often than not, some personal property will go missing at a care facility. It’s a sad indictment of humans everywhere. When a lot of people pass through a patient’s hospital room (EMTs, nurses, doctors, visitors, janitors, etc.), there is bound to be a set of sticky fingers with no way to figure out who did it.
Personal property sitting on a patient’s nightstand is an easy grab. The thief may not be a habitual thief but could simply be a person who sees a crime of opportunity. We’ve had this happen in many of our estates, sadly. The family knows that their loved one had a piece of jewelry at the care facility, and now it’s gone. Heirs understandably get mad, and there is not much anyone can do. Unfortunately, this is something below the district attorney’s radar and is typically hard to prove.
If she died at home?
In New York, when someone dies in their home, the police come and put up yellow police tape. You then need Letters Testamentary to enter. The police search the home for personal effects and put them into the evidence room at the police precinct. So, if you do get into the home and can’t find something, check the police precinct.
Also, the police purge non-cash valuables within 1 year. They can’t hold things forever, or they will run out of room. If you are looking for the decedent’s keys or special photos, etc., you need to get to the precinct as soon as you can. A year may sound long, but time seems to go fast when you’re probating an estate. Sometimes it can take a year to get Letters Testamentary, so you need to move fast!
Be aware that you will need to find the correct police precinct. We had an estate where we thought the personal effects were at the local precinct, but they were stored at the main one.
This sounds like a pain, but at least the police secure the property and there is a paper trail of what they found.
If you want to learn more about how probate works in general, don’t forget to check out my book, “How Probate Works,” available on Amazon.
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