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6+ Tips for Securing the Home of Deceased Loved One

When someone close to you passes away, securing their possessions may be the last thing on your mind, but news of a death can be a green light for thieves and other criminals, sadly.

If a close friend or relative who lived alone has just passed away, it’s a good idea to try to stop by their home and secure it as soon as you reasonably can. Here are 8 good steps to take.

1. Arrange care for any pets

If your loved one had a dog, cat or other pet, make sure they have a temporary care arrangement. They may be nervous or on edge as a result of the disappearance of their owner and the sudden appearance of others, so be cautious and thoughtful when approaching any animals for the first time if you don’t know them well already.

2. Change the locks

People often share their keys with neighbors and other service providers. While chances are that all have good intentions, it’s impossible to know who has access to the home and knows that it’s now empty. Changing the locks will allow you to quickly control who can go in and out.

3. Make sure windows and side doors are locked

An empty home makes it easy for potential burglars to scout the place and check for easy entrance points without being spotted. Check every window and door to make sure they’re completely secure and can’t be easily opened.

4. Look for valuables

Even when locks have been changed and entrances have been secured, no home is immune from being broken into, especially an empty one. As a result, it’s a good idea to remove valuable items from the premise entirely. You may want to consider bringing another trusted friend or relative along with you to do this in order to minimize the risk of disputes over what was found and where those items ended up. Many people hide their valuables, so a thorough search of the house is often recommended. Agree with other family members on the best place to store valuables until the estate is settled.

5. Forward the mail

Mail piling up can be an obvious (and public) sign that a home is vacant. You can file a request at the post office to have it forwarded, but you’ll need to show proof that you are an appointed executor and authorized to manage your loved one’s mail. This will also allow you to start identifying accounts that your loved one had and important bills that may need to be paid.

6. Contact local police

Find the non-emergency phone number for the local police, and call them to let them know the home will be vacant, so they can include it on their regular patrols. Leave your contact information so they can let you know if anything seems strange.

7. Secure important documents

If there's any kind of valuable mail or documents lying around, be sure to secure that in a folder or in a place that's organized. Information on life insurance policies, financial information, or other secure information should be organized and kept safe.

8. Check for any running water, gas, or heat

In emergencies, sometimes things can be left on unintentionally or forgotten about. Make sure the oven or stove is off and that any faucets in the house aren't running. Making sure a faucet is turned off or a tub isn't about to overflow can save a major headache in the future.

Handle tasks with our checklist

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Last updated February 15, 2022
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