Securing a Property When a Loved One Has Died

09 March 2017

By Probate Solicitor Stephen Carruthers, TEP

If you are the Executor of your loved one’s Estate, one of your first duties is to secure the assets of the Estate.

Your loved one’s home is likely to be the most valuable asset in the Estate. If their death has left the property vacant, it will be at greater risk. It is therefore crucial that that all necessary measures are taken to ensure that the property is protected. In this article we explain each of these considerations.

Secure the Property

The first thing to do is to secure the property. Check and lock the doors, windows, garages, sheds and outbuildings. You should also turn off all the electrical appliances except for any alarm systems.

Once you have done that, you can turn your attention to other practicalities. For example, cancel ongoing deliveries such as newspaper, milk or groceries, and arrange a postal redirection. If there are any pets, they will need to be re-homed.

Check the Insurance

As the Executor, you need to make sure that an appropriate insurance policy is in place. Many insurance policies include clauses which invalidate the policy if the property is unoccupied for more than 30 days. Contact the deceased’s insurance company and ask for a copy of the policy. It may be necessary to cancel the existing policy and arrange a policy specifically tailored to the circumstances.

Do not underestimate this risk. If an escape of water occurs at the property and the insurance policy is invalid, you may be personally liable to make good the loss.

Put on the Heating

If the heating is turned off during the winter months, it’s possible that the water will freeze and the pipes will break. To prevent an escape of water you can drain down the heating system. This should prevent flooding, however it may make the property seem inhospitable to potential buyers. Therefore it may be preferable for the heating to be kept on at a low temperature.

Utility companies deal with Executors and Personal Representatives on a regular basis. They will generally allow for bills to be settled following the sale of the property. When your loved one dies, contact the utility companies to confirm the situation, and provide them with regular meter readings.

Remove Valuable Contents

Wasn’t Uncle Jack a school-friend of Damien Hirst? Probably best to remove that print from the hallway. Just in case.

If the property is to be sold you may wish to keep the furniture in place until you have accepted an offer. If there are any unwanted personal items and clothing, you could ask a local charity to collect them.

Maintain Regular Visits

It’s important that you make regular visits to the property. As Executor you have a duty to maintain the property and ensure that any damage is repaired. Has a window been smashed? Has anyone gained access to the property? Do you need to change the locks? Do you need to employ a gardener? All these questions can only be answered by regular attendance. Practicalities aside, it is likely that weekly attendance is also an insurance requirement.

If you would like further advice and guidance on how to secure a property after a loved one’s death, our Probate Specialists can help you.

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