topic | first days after death

Step 2: secure the property

Ensure that the estate residence is not accessible to unauthorized persons. But, be sure to notify relatives or heirs that the residence is being secured. They may still need access to the residence! Provide trusted individuals with necessary information to access the residence if the home is in a secure environment such as a gated community.

Activity 1
Assess Property and Secure Visible Valuables

Make every effort to preserve items as they were at the time of death. Walk through the residence and note what should be cleaned or taken care of for reasons of safety. Secure visible valuables such as jewelry and cash. Use Personal Items to record this information. A more thorough inventory of possessions will be detailed in Step 2.

Best Practices

This activity should be completed with another person. This creates accountability and ensures accuracy.

Activity 2
Change Locks

If there are concerns about who has access to the home, consider changing the locks or security system codes.

Activity 3
Assign House Sitter

If the house will be vacant for several days, or if there are pets that need care, consider hiring a house sitter. They may be a volunteer, a trusted friend, or a paid professional. Contacts-Family or Contacts-Other may contain helpful suggestions. If not, friends or family may be able to recommend someone.

Activity 4
Notify Police if the Residence is to Remain Vacant

Provide the executor’s contact information, and ask that police check the residence during routine patrols in the area.

Best Practices

Enlist the help of trusted neighbors, a neighborhood watch committee, or other security personnel to monitor the property.

Activity 5
Care for the Residence

To prevent becoming a target of theft, ensure the residence appears occupied.

  • Arrange for house cleaning services.
  • Forward mail.
  • Cancel magazine and newspaper delivery.
  • Take care of garbage and recycling.
  • Install timers on selective interior lights.
  • Arrange for lawn care or snow removal.

Activity 6
Cancel Unneeded Services and Utilities

To reduce expenses, cancel services (e.g. weekly cleaning) or optional utilities such as phone (landline and cell), cable TV, Internet access, and food delivery.

  • Keep the electric, heat, and water on until the property is sold.
  • Dues Subscriptions and Other Payments may contain helpful contact information. If not, use it as a guide. Contact information may also be found on household bills.


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