(Please send this to everyone you know is dealing with an estate.)
I just received yet another sad phone call. A client’s deceased father’s home was broken into and 90% of the estate is now gone. These thieves weren’t in any rush either. They came with a huge truck, left odds and ends in the yard, drank beer as evidenced by beer cans left around the home, and proceeded to rob this family without care, concern, conscience, or karma. Not only is she grieving, but now she has this to contend with as well. The contents of this estate were sitting, waiting for a long distance sibling to arrive in town to divide it with his sister.
The old phrase “sitting duck” applies here. It alludes to a duck floating on the water, not suspecting that it is the object of a hunter or predator. Let’s take a closer look at this situation, so we can avoid it in the future.
Since the beginning of man, there have been thieves. Through the millennia, man has stolen everything from other people held for ransom, to meat, to money, to gold, you name it. But take a good look at the state of our economy right now. Unscrupulous individuals, who feel entitled to take what others have rightfully earned and inherited, are moving in on the good side of man. They saw a house sitting, they made a plan, and they helped themselves. As times get tougher, we will see more of this.
Do you really think law enforcement is going to find these possessions? My guess is no — they are gone forever — slipping into flea markets, personal safes, sold cheap, etc. I’m not blaming the police, as they are overwhelmed with this sort of thing on a daily basis. In my opinion, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
I’ve said it before in my writings and I’d like to offer the best advice. Don’t let the estate be a sitting duck. Deal with it in a timely manner, get professionals in there to help you, and get it done. The longer it sits, the more likely it will become a target.
With the permission of the executor (unless the executor already has done so), document and remove all the valuables from the home so they can be divided at a later date: sterling items and flatware, gold, jewelry, high-end electronics, expensive tools, etc. Keys/locks should be changed immediately upon learning of a death, because you don’t know everyone who has keys. Work through the estate and don’t delay! Don’t become one more ugly statistic, like this grieving woman who only did what she thought was right by waiting. Work closely with siblings, and find the time to meet to make decisions.
© 2012 Julie Hall