What should happen to the contents of my Dad's house in the time following his passing?

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I had a productive meeting with a lawyer last week and he cleared up a lot of my confusion but there's this one thing where he couldn't seem to give me a clear answer. I'm executor of my dad's will and am trying to learn in advance what I'll need to know and be doing when the time comes. I have a sibling who will be a challenge (wow, I put that nicely!) and feel I need to be armed with knowledge. So, after the funeral, I picture the sibling and other relatives clearing my dad's house of all furnishings and possessions. Many have keys to his house. Is this permissible? Does the house need to stay intact until the will goes through probate and is considered settled? I know there's six months for all creditors to make claim (there aren't any) and I can pay basic utilities during thIs time. After this, I will sell the house. But what about the "stuff" in it? Does it stay or does it all get taken? Lawyer was vague on this.

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The household possessions may also be a function of whether or not you need to hold an estate sale and maximize what you can from the.

To be on the safe side, I would change locks now. You could even start inventorying the assets, especially if there are valuables. I would probably take photos and add information on the items and start researching to determine their value. If there are collectibles, you may have to deal with the issue of capital gains on their value. I addressed that issue with a Corvette, definitely a collectible item.

There usually is a provision in both trusts and wills that expenses of the last illness need to be paid first, so you will have to assess what those will and might be and hold off any distributions until you determine if your father's assets will cover all his last expense debts. That's the priority, well above what the unruly sibling will want.

There will also be administrative costs, including those for the house, until it's sold, so you might need some of the household items (especially those of value) to maintain the house until it's sold.

Given that you anticipate issues with the one sibling, you might want to protect yourself (after changing the locks), by sending a letter to all siblings (so he doesn't feel singled out), providing projected costs of maintaining the house until it's sold and ask if each can contribute (assuming there are insufficient funds in your father's assets). It might hold off your brother temporarily.

What you can also do after inventorying the items of value is to discuss it with your dad (I apologize but I don't recall his situation and if he's up to this) and ask him if there are any specific things he wants to go to a specific sibling.

There's a provision in our trusts that this can be done, by memo, witnessed, etc. (I'd have to check the specific terms) to reserve certain items for certain people.

If your father's able to sign a Codicil, your attorney could easily draft one that allows for this provision; it'll give you support when your brother comes after what he wants.

Good question, by the way.
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Daughterof1930, It depends on what Dad has. My MIL did not have valuable furniture, and most of it was very worn out. What we did was invite the cousins to appear on a Saturday at 10 AM and gave them Post-It pads to tag what they wanted. There were no arguments at all, probably because they were all there together. They even helped load stuff in the dumpster. We got a sub platter and had lunch together. By the afternoon, the only thing left was a cheap entertainment center and old mattresses that went to the curb.
I do think that you need to change the locks ASAP, though to prevent the disappearance of valuables. If Dad had guns--store them elsewhere.
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Change the locks. Ask these relatives for lists of what they want, no hints to them. If more than one person wants something draw straws. Have them also prioritize their lists choice one, choice two and so on. Let them know if they do not agree with what you decide you will have an estate sale and they can purchase what they want. That may be the simplest.
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I've read here on AC, that during the funeral, relatives went into the house and took what they wanted. Some people don't even wait until the person passes away. Like what horserider said with the friend.
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Kwikset makes a GREAT lock that is "re-keyable" in about 15 seconds. Everyone in town could "have keys", but with the re-key tool you can program it to a different key that only you have. The lock can be programmed back and forth any number of times (ie if he goes into the hospital and you DON'T want everyone in the family wandering through and "pre-picking" you change to your "you only" key. When he's back home you go to the regular "everyone in the world" key).
If there are things of significant value in the home consider a home alarm -- there are people who keep a lookout for folks going into hospital/rehab/nursing homes and clear out valuables while they are away (a friend lost all kinds of stuff that way - very difficult for him)
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"And then finding out" she should have typed ;)
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The will doesn't stipulate any belongings in the house are to go to anyone in particular. We each likely know of a few things we'd like to have, but I'm not willing to fight over possessions, just not that important to me. I'm concerned more with doing things correctly from a legal standpoint. Don't want relatives to clear the house and then me as the person charged with being "over" things to then discover that wasn't allowed. Or the opposite, me being obstinate and not letting relatives have things and then findings put it would have been fine. Am I making sense? As for changing the locks and not having so many keys out there, I love that idea, unfortunately my father still has a sound enough mind and strong enough will to reject that idea, and I'm positive he would.
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How about changing the locks right now, before the " looting" starts.?
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That depends on what the will says. Does the will name any item in the house directly...such as the old antique diamond necklace goes to cousin Susan? If not, then the house AND its possessions belong to the estate and only the executor of the estate can give out these items (or sell them if there are debts, which I believe you said there are none). If anyone goes in and takes them it is stealing and you can call the police...you should have the locks changed now before his death and do not give out any keys.

Angel
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