Does the executor of a will have the ability to lock the doors to the estate home until the reading of the will?
Elder Law Attorney
The executor has a duty imposed by law to protect the property belonging to the decedent. As far as the contents contained in the Real Property (Home), yes they do have the authority and duty to secure the home.
Consider this, each beneficiary of the estate may be entitled to portion of the decedent's estate. If the executor would allow each beneficiary to enter the home and remove the items they wanted without considering the other beneficiaries desires, the executor himself may be held liable to the beneficiary. Additionally, if beneficiaries remove items from the house without those items having been inventoried, the executor might be held liable.
It is very important to secure the home and protect the contents until such time as a proper inventory of the contents can be secured. The beneficiaries don't have a right to enter the property without the Executor's permission.
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Real Estate Attorney
I agree with my colleague. The executor owes strict levels of responsibility to any and all beneficiaries of the estate. If one beneficiary is given preference or the executor fails to uphold his/her responsibilities then he/she may be held legally liable.
Best of Luck!
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Estate Planning Attorney
I agree with my colleague, Mr. Feliciani, and add the following:
There is nothing in the law that requires a formal "Reading of the Will" as we have all seen on TV and movies. In Pennsylvania, the Executor or Executrix exercises his or her legal obligation to let others know about the estate by sending out what is called a Notice of Beneficial Interest to the beneficiaries.
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