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How to Secure Someone’s Personal Belongings After a Death

After losing a loved one, it's up to the executor, family (or those close to the deceased) to ensure that their affairs are in order, to the best of their ability. While many of these tasks are handled by an executor or appointed administrator, some of the tasks can be handled by friends and family members and should be dealt with sooner rather than later. Ensuring the decedent's property is secure and their belongings are safe is an important step to take after someone passes away -- here's how.

Step 1: Gather supplies.

Securing the property after someone dies is an important step to prevent losses, break-ins, and unwanted guests from stopping by in a vacant home. It's also important to do a house check after someone dies to make sure appliances are turned off, garbage is taken out, and the house is in relatively good order to be left alone for a period of time. Before you head over to the home of the deceased, it may be worth bringing a few supplies to make securing the home easier. Here are some things you may want to consider bringing along to the house:

  • New locks if you're considering changing the locks.
  • Garbage bags and gloves for handling any disposable waste.
  • A few cleaning supplies (such as windex, antibacterial spray, wipes, paper towels, and sponges) if you plan on doing a wipe-down of the surfaces in the home.
  • A folder for collecting any important documents or storing important pieces of mail.

Step 2: Head to the house.

Once you've gathered your supplies, it's time to head to the house. If you're considering changing the locks for added security measures, be sure you have the authority to do so first and consider getting in touch with a locksmith. Once you're at the house, there are a few tasks you should to take care of for security purposes:

  • Ensure all windows are closed and locked.
  • Close the blinds or shutters.
  • Bring in any packages and mail.
  • If there are valuables left about, consider storing them in a safe or inside a cabinet or closet in the home.
  • If there are a lot of valuables on the property and you're concerned that a large number of people will be coming and going, it can help to take an inventory around expensive items or valuables that you want to protect. There are other steps you should take in terms of managing the home after someone passes away as well. Tasks like taking out the garbage and collecting mail are just two of a few responsibilities you'll have when performing a home check -- be sure to read through this guide for a full list.

Step 3: Do a perimeter check.

Completing a perimeter check can help you ensure there aren't any missed entrances or exits that were accidentally left open. It can also give you an idea of what doors you'll need to make sure are locked if you need to enter and exit the property again in the future. If there are any bikes or personal pieces of property left outside, be sure to bring them inside or store them in a locked garage. Gathering stray personal belongings after death will help prevent them from being stolen, used, or tampered with.

Check for spare keys hidden under the mat, under a rock near the door, or in the mailbox. If you have friends or family that know of spare key locations, ask them for this information so that you can secure the keys.

Step 4: Lock it up.

Ensure all doors are closed and locked (including backdoors, side doors, and garage doors). If there is a backyard, ensure the back gate is closed and locked as well.

After you've locked up, consider arming the security system, if there is one and you know the codes. At this point, it can also help to ask a trusted neighbor to watch the home or keep an eye out for any suspicious activity. Additionally, some people like to keep someone’s car in the driveway (if there isn't one already) to give the illusion that there are people in the house, which can help to deter unwanted guests.

You may be wondering, "Wait. What happens to a house when the owner dies?" While it may or may not be your responsibility to lock up the house and ensure it's secure, the house's safety and maintenance will fall to the executor of the estate. If you're not the executor of the estate and are concerned about the house's wellbeing, you should getnin touch with him or her to figure out a plan for next steps.

Doing a home check and securing the property is one of many tasks you may be faced with dealing with after someone passes away. Use Ever Loved's Post-Death Checklist to get guidance and information on over 50 tasks that you may need to handle after someone dies.

View the checklist

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Last updated June 15, 2022
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