Experienced, Compassionate and Effective Advocacy

Can sentimental items be taken from a house before probate?

When parents pass away, children and other heirs may know that there are items in that home with a lot of sentimental value. An example could be an art collection or a book collection. There are also many minor items to which people attach sentimental value, which may not have all that much financial value.

In some cases, people decide to go to their parent’s homes and remove the items that they want. It may be part of the way that they deal with their parent’s passing. Or, they may simply have had their eye on that item for a long time, knowing that they hoped to get it in the estate plan. But, are they allowed to do this?

Items cannot be removed before probate

Quite simply, no. No one should take items from the home if probate has not already happened. Ideally, the elderly parents created an estate plan and named an estate administrator. That person is supposed to enter the home, make an inventory of the items and then distribute those items in accordance with the will.

But if someone goes into the house before they do this and removes items, then it potentially circumvents the will. It could mean that the items do not go to the person the parents intended.

In some cases, this certainly happens accidentally, and the offending person may not have even understood that they were violating the law. But there are also situations in which other heirs will allege that those items were essentially stolen or that this is a form of fraud or theft. It’s important to take it very seriously and for all parties to know what legal options they have if a dispute arises.