Can the executor change the locks of a house if it was not written in the will? 19 Answers as of August 27, 2013

My mother died 4 years ago and my father died suddenly in June of this year. I have one older sister and one younger sister. My older sister’s husband is executor of the will per requested by both parents in the will. There is no dispute in most of this other than he took it upon his self to change the locks on the house the day after Dad died and won’t allow anyone except his wife in the house unless he is there. He swept the house and gathered any money and medicines. He supposedly split the money between the three of us and gave some of the meds to my younger sister and her husband. He (the executor) and my sister live 6 hours away so no one can go in the house. Before my mom died they changed the locks on the house and only gave me a key because I was the only one helping them as they became ill. There is no mention of changing locks or keeping my sister and me out in the will. My brother-in-law says he is doing what my Dad wanted. I don't believe it but don't know what to do. Can you offer any suggestions? Can he do this without it being in the will?

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Law Office of Thomas C. Phipps | Thomas C Phipps
The executor of the estate has to preserve the assets of the estate. Also, he has to file an inventory of property of the estate. You have the right to get a copy of he inventory and to challenge it in court.
Answer Applies to: Missouri
Replied: 8/27/2013
Law Firm of Marco Caviglia | Marco Caviglia
An executor has a personal fiduciary obligation to carry out the wishes of the testator, and is responsible for marshaling the assets of the estate, among many other obligations. He has a right to secure any of the estate assets, which in the case of the house and its contents, might mean locking it up if others want to get in there when he is not there for obvious reasons. Presumably, the house has been put up for sale for division of the proceeds as the will may devise. If you have continued or other concerns, you should consult with a probate attorney in your location.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 8/26/2013
James Oberholtzer, Attorney at Law
James Oberholtzer, Attorney at Law | James Oberholtzer
It is the Executor's job to make sure the property is safe and secure. That is a good reason to keep it locked up. If you want more access, I would start with talking to the Executor about what you want to do.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 8/26/2013
Goldsmith & Guymon
Goldsmith & Guymon | Dara Goldsmith
The executor should change the locks if others have access to the home. He may be responsible for loss or damage. This information is only intended to give general information in response to an inquiry. It does not establish an attorney client relationship. This response is only based upon the limited facts presented and is merely intended to assist you in determining if you should contact an attorney to provide you with legal advice.
Answer Applies to: Nevada
Replied: 8/26/2013
Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C.
Minor, Bandonis and Haggerty, P.C. | Brian Haggerty
The personal representative, upon appointment by the court, is to take possession of all of the property of the estate. He is to keep the property safe and secure, so, yes, changing the locks is probably unnecessary but it's not wrong. He should have given you notice of the beginning of probate, and 60 days after appointment should give you an Inventory of the assets of the estate. A year later he will owe you an account of what has happened to those assets. Giving Dad's medicines to family members may be illegal, is certainly irresponsible. The personal representative has primarily responsibility, rather than rights. He is a fiduciary for your Dad's creditors, and the devise's named in the will.
Answer Applies to: Oregon
Replied: 8/26/2013
    Law Ofices of Edwin K. Niles | Edwin K. Niles
    Sounds as if he is doing everything he can to protect the estate and those interested in the estate.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/26/2013
    Law Office of Patricia A. Simmons
    Law Office of Patricia A. Simmons | Patrica A Simmons
    Once the executor is appointed by the court, his/her responsibility is to marshal all assets and to secure the premises. As executor, he is within his rights to protect the estate's assets. Make sure your brother-in-law was appointed executor by the court. He should have letters of testamentary which gives him authority. In addition, the money he distributed, should actually be put into an estate account to pay estate expenses. No distributions are to be made until the court issues an order for final distribution. Contact the county to see whether probate proceedings have been initiated.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/26/2013
    James Law Group
    James Law Group | Christine James
    The issues you are addressing are minor. You need to focus on the big picture and could use the counsel of an attorney for that (see 15 minute lawyer.com for low cost legal advise). Has your brother in law been appointed executor by the court? If not, he has no legal authority to do anything. In addition it sounds like, since the house is empty, it needs to be sold and the proceeds distributed. What is being done to make that happen?
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/26/2013
    Law Office Of Victor Waid
    Law Office Of Victor Waid | Victor Waid
    You should obtain the services of a probate litigation attorney. The executor does have a duty to gather and protect the assets. If you were left out of the will, you may file a petition to be determined as an heir to receive benefits as an heir.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/24/2013
    Irsfeld, Irsfeld & Younger LLP | Norman H. Green
    Your bro-in-law is not executor until appointed by a court. By now he should have filed a petition for probate and you should have gotten notice. Fr died in June. It is his job to marshal the assets. What reason do you have for entrance into the house, other than to take things? If you have a valid reason, then explain it and arrange to go there for the legitimate purposes.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/23/2013
    Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law
    Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law | Charles M. Schiff
    The duly appointed Legal Representative (Executor) of the estate has a number of rights and obligations that are described in the statutes of your jurisdictions. One of the primary obligations is to secure the assets of the estate for sale or eventual distribution. If the Personal Representative can make a reasonable argument that the actions taken were necessary to protect and secure the assets of the estate, those actions will be supported by the court. A person is not the Personal Representative (Executor) of the estate until he is appointed by the court. The legal rights and obligations described above apply only to a duly appointed P.R. Nomination in a decedent's Will gives a person priority for appointment but it does not grant the nominated party any authority. If the brother-in-law took action the day after your Dad died, it is highly doubtful that he had legal authority at that time.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 8/23/2013
    Law Office of Edward M. Burgh, APC | Edward M. Burgh
    He (as Executor) is supposed to give the original Will to the Clerk of the County where he lived. He should hire a Probate Attorney to get this done. The Probate Attorney's fees are set by Statute.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 8/23/2013
    The Krone Law Firm, LLC | Norman B. Krone
    As Executor, he has an obligation to protect the assets and take proper actions to safeguard the property. I believe that he has acted properly by changing the locks.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/23/2013
    Jeffs & Jeffs, P.C.
    Jeffs & Jeffs, P.C. | Kenneth A. Prigmore
    Executors have the responsibility of protecting and properly distributing the estate of the deceased. As a beneficiary, you have the right to see the testamentary documents that include you. Demand a copy of the will, trust, and any other gifting documents. If the Executor refuses, tell them you can sue and get them without much difficulty. Executors also have the responsibility to prepare an accounting of the estate, so if he has been making equal distributions, he should be able to show what the entire estate included. Finally, if you doubt the Executor's statements and actions, you may have to sue to find out the truth. Unfortunately, this can be very stressful and expensive, so you may not want to start any action until you are sure there is a problem. Locking the house is not automatically a breach of an Executor's duties. Timing is important. It is best to demand that all beneficiaries be allowed to review the contents of the home prior to the executor's "Sweep" of the house removing valuables. It sounds like you are too late to do that. You can still demand that he escort you around the home to see what is still there. Sometimes simply retaining an attorney who will write a letter to the executor demanding an accounting and threatening suit if he fails to disclose the contents of the estate will be enough to keep things in order. Please note: Prescription medications should be destroyed, not passed on to heirs for non prescription use. This is both the law and common sense. There is no known right to inheritance of prescription medications.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 8/23/2013
    Law Office of Pamela Braynon | Pamela Y. Braynon
    Has he been appointed the personal representative by the Courts? If so you can go to the judge and explain the situation to him. However in probate court you will need to hire an attorney. If your brother-in-law is just following what the will says and you are not in probate court, hire an attorney anyway to ensure that the will is probated and the court will oversee whether he is following what the will says.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 8/23/2013
    Ronald Main & Associates | Tracian M. Laignel
    You can request from your brother-in-law a copy of the wills of your parents. If he refuses you can file a probate action where the court will force him to produce valid copies of the wills. I hope this can be done amicably because a probate action is drawn out and takes time.
    Answer Applies to: Oklahoma
    Replied: 8/23/2013
    Frederick & Frederick PLC | James P Frederick
    The Personal Representative has the right to change the locks and limit or prevent access to the property. In fact, he is *required* to secure the assets and safeguard them. So he acted wisely in doing this, knowing that others had keys. If he had not done this and someone had gone in and removed items, HE could potentially be liable for this. It sounds like he is doing everything properly, at this point. He has a job to do that your parents entrusted him with.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 8/23/2013
    Siegel & Siegel, P.C. | Sharon M. Siegel
    Changing the locks would not be something that would not be a specific power in the will. He as Executor is charged with protecting the estate assets. It sounds to me like he is using the title of Executor to control you and this is common. He should allow you inside, but can legally change the lock, unless you were living there. If you have personal property there, advise him in writing ASAP and make a demand for it. Good luck.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 8/23/2013
    Martin Barnes - Attorney at Law
    Martin Barnes - Attorney at Law | Martin Barnes
    I am sorry to hear of your losses and the difficulty you are having. I wish there were a simple answer that I could offer you but my advice is for you to visit with an Indiana attorney who can help you determine what is actually happening and can help you protect your own beneficial interest in your father's estate.
    Answer Applies to: Indiana
    Replied: 8/23/2013
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