After a person dies it is usually necessary to enter the decedent’s residence for various purposes. To begin with, it may be that the home needs to be searched to see if the person left a Last Will and Testament. Gaining access to the home may not be difficult if the decedent lived with a spouse or other family member. However, if the decedent lived alone or voluntary access cannot be obtained, then an application can be made to the Surrogate’s Court for an Order to search the residence for a Will.
There may also be situations where either before or after a fiduciary is appointed, a residence is searched to locate papers and documents relating to the person’s income, assets, debts, business obligations and ordinary bills such as utilities, mortgage, rent or credit cards.
There are a number of important considerations when a residence is searched and the decedent’s personal effects are first reviewed. If the individual entering the premises is not a duly appointed estate fiduciary he does not have any authorization to remove or otherwise discard any of the decedent’s property. Additionally, even if the individual has been appointed as Executor or Administrator or Preliminary Executor, extreme care should be taken to inventory and safeguard the contents.