Amid deep grief, securing a loved one’s property may be the last thing on your mind, but it is vitally important nonetheless.
When a relative who lived alone passes away, make it a point to stop by their residence as soon as you reasonably can to secure the house, vehicles, and other property. As sad as it is to say, a vacant home is often a beacon for thieves and other would-be criminals.
In this article, we have compiled seven key steps to take when securing a loved one’s property.
Find care for pets
If the departed had a dog, cat, or other pet, make temporary arrangements for their care until permanent arrangements can be made. The animal may be nervous or on edge without its owner, so be cautious and thoughtful during your initial approach. Ideally, the pet should stay with someone who likes animals and already knows them.
Change the locks
People often share their keys with friends, neighbors, and service providers. While they probably have honest intentions, it’s impossible to know who has access to the property and knows it’s now vacant. By changing the locks, you can quickly control who comes and goes.
Check all doors and windows
An empty home makes it easy for thieves to locate entry points where they are unlikely to be seen. Go through the residence checking every door and window to ensure that it is locked and cannot be opened easily.
Clear out belongings, if applicable
If your departed loved one was in a hospital, nursing home, or hospice, you will need to remove their possessions immediately. This is never an easy task, so don’t be afraid to ask for help from other family members.
Even when locks have been changed and entrances have been secured, no home is immune from being broken into, especially an empty one. That’s why it’s a good idea to remove all valuable items from the premises. Bring a trusted friend or relative along with you to minimize the risk of disputes over what was found and where those items ended up. Many people hide their valuables, so search the premises thoroughly. Consult with other family members to determine the best place to store valuables until the estate is settled.
Gather and forward the mail
Mail that’s piling up can be an obvious sign that the home is vacant. If you are the appointed executor, file a request at the post office to have your loved one’s mail forwarded to you. This will also allow you to start identifying their accounts and other assets, as well as any bills or debts that need to be satisfied.
Compile important papers
Many documents will be needed in the days and weeks ahead. These include the deceased's will, advance healthcare directive, Social Security card, birth certificate, marriage license, military discharge papers (DD-214 form), life insurance contract, and funeral contract, if previously arranged. Personal financial information such as life insurance policies and account details should be kept in a secure location.
Evan W. Smith Funeral Services is here to help you through your loss. If you have questions about securing a loved one’s property, need more information, or wish to make funeral arrangements, please reach out to us anytime.
About Evan W. Smith Funeral Services: Since 2009, residents of Wilmington, Dover, and the surrounding Delaware community have relied on the caring staff at Evan W. Smith Funeral Services to help them through their darkest hours. Family-owned and operated, the company offers an array of elite funeral care services, including traditional funerals, cremations, memorials, pre-planning, grief counseling, and more. With decades of experience in caring for families from all cultural backgrounds and diverse walks of life, Evan W. Smith Funeral Services is committed to creating memorable, uplifting experiences that always exceed expectations. For more information, please visit www.ewsmithfs.com.