Can they legally refuse to open the door even though I have to the right to break the police seal? 4 Answers as of April 11, 2017

My brother was found deceased in his apartment after a wellness check. There was blood found in the apartment, so a police seal was placed on his door. He did not have a will. Two of my sisters were on the premises when my brother’s body was removed by the medical examiner’s office. Two days after his death, my oldest brother, went to the buildings management office and attempted to get the keys, but was unsuccessful. My estranged, eldest sister went back the following day, also to no avail. When me and my two sisters, the ones who were there when my brothers body was removed, went there, the management office informed us that their attorneys had taken over and none of us could enter the apartment because the police seal was on the door. They also stated that they did not know who the next of kin was and that we had to prove that we were related and had rights to enter the apartment. I was only the power of attorney for healthcare, but I was able to get my brother’s death certificate and a letter from the medical examiner’s office to have the police seal broken on my brother door. As a courtesy, I went to the management office, located inside of the building, and informed them that I was there to have the seal broken and that I was told to call 911 when I got there. There attorney was there and she informed me that even though I had the right to break the seal, they still were not obligated to give the keys to open his door. I let them know what that we needed to get his personal effects and clothing for his funeral and they refused. I was told by the attorney that there were too many persons of interest involved and that I needed his death certificate (which I had) AND a letter of administration from the circuit court before they will open my brother’s apartment. The seal is still on the door and I informed the attorney that I would not release it.

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Ashcraft & Ashcraft, Ltd.
Ashcraft & Ashcraft, Ltd. | Randall C. Romei
The leasehold rights and the contents of the apartment are now assets of your brother's estate. Only the representative of your brother's estate has a legal right to access to the apartment. A representative must be appointed by the court in a probate proceeding to assert the legal right. If your brother's estate was small, less than $100,000 in value in Illinois, then a small estate affidavit may be sufficient to take control of the leasehold asset and the contents of the apartment. The legal right to possession and control of the apartment is different from the police accommodation granted the next of kin in allowing the next of kin access to a restricted area.
Answer Applies to: Illinois
Replied: 4/11/2017
Law Office of T. Phillip Boggess | T. Phillip Boggess
Yes, the management company is well within their rights to refuse your entry. At this point, there is no one with the legal right to get into the property or collect your brother's personal property. For the funeral purposes and need for clothing, you may want to work with the management company and police to work something out. Maybe with a police escort, they will permit you to arrange for your brother?s funeral and obtain the clothing necessary. However, it will be limited to that if they even let this happen. To get a Letter of Administration (also called Testamentary Letters sometimes), you will need to start a probate estate in the county where your brother last resided. In that petition, you will request to be appointed as the Executor/Administrator for his estate. At that point, you will be the one with the legal rights and obligations to collect all of his assets, pay his debts or deny them, and provide for a final distribution of his property.
Answer Applies to: Illinois
Replied: 4/11/2017
Shimberg and Crohn, P.C. | Jonathan Shimberg
Your health care power terminated at death. Until an administrator of the estate is appointed by the court. You and your siblings will have to fight it out there. You have no more right to gain access to the apartment. It may well be the subject of a police investigation as the scene of a crime.
Answer Applies to: Illinois
Replied: 4/11/2017
Law Offices of Robert H. Glorch | Jeffrey R. Gottlieb
In terms of letters of administration, assuming that your brother had no spouse and no descendants and assuming his parents are deceased, you and your siblings have equal rights to serve as administrator.? Unless you can get them to agree in writing to your appointment, then you need to file a petition and give them at least 30 days' notice of a hearing. You need an attorney to help you through the probate process.
Answer Applies to: Illinois
Replied: 4/11/2017
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