As the executor of an estate, you have an obligation to follow the instructions and wishes of the deceased. Most executors recognize that they need to protect assets from creditor claims and do their best to make sure that they distribute items as requested by the testator.

Unfortunately, not all threats to the value of an estate will come from outside the family. People may try to take advantage of a death for their own personal gain. That’s why one of the most important steps that you need to take early on in the estate administration process will involve securing the property.

Executors may need to change locks and move items

Family members are often keenly aware of what possessions and assets have the greatest value. Some people might intentionally go in to a loved one’s house right after they die to grab as many valuables as they can. They may not even do so for sentimental value but in the hope of gaining financially.

While you may not think that anyone who stands to benefit from the estate would engage in such behavior, it’s impossible to predict how money and grief can influence people. You may need to change the locks to a home, move items to a secure location and/or document their existence with photographs and written records.

By preventing theft, you help maintain control over the assets and can therefore comply with state law and the wishes of the testator by distributing those assets to creditors and the beneficiaries of the estate as appropriate. An experienced estate planning attorney can provide valuable assistance.