Updated: Jul 17, 2019
When a family member or close friend passes away, it can be an extremely difficult time for anyone. However, there are somethings that anyone should keep in mind of what to not do when this happens.
First and foremost, even if you are named in the will of the recently passed or will take a share of the property under intestacy law (how the property of the recently passed is distributed if there is no will), the property belongs to the estate of the recently passed until a probate procedure gives title of the property to you. What this means in practice is that even if there is a 100% chance of the property going to you, the property does not belong to you until the probate process is complete.
For instance, let’s say that a friend recently passed, and you know for a fact that their will gives you all of their property, and you know that there is something in a storage unit that you want to get right now. You even have a key to said storage unit. So, you think it is okay to go get the property in question. However, then the probate is open, and it turns out there are a number of debts or a specific gift in the will that gives that one item of property to someone else. If that is the case, then the executor or administrator of the estate will want the property back from you and has a legal right to the property in question.
If you fail to turn over the property or unable to turn it over to the executor or administrator of the estate, then the executor or administrator has to sue you on behalf of the estate. This means that you will have to go in front of the Judge and explain why you have the property in question or are unable to turn over the property. The Court can and will award damages to the estate that you will have to pay in this situation. This is why it is usually not recommended to take possession of items from a recently passed person without the permission of the executor or administrator of the estate.
If there is a situation where the property could be lost or destroyed if you did not take possession of it, it maybe best to take possession. However, it would be best to be in contact with the eventually executor or administrator of the estate or have a lawyer talk to you about if you should take possession of the property in question.
If you have any questions regarding probate, please feel free to set up a free consultation with us at (972) 330-2171.