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Are there Vultures at the Door? When is it Ethical to Remove Belongings from an Estate?

Updated: Mar 19

When I was in my mid 20’s my grandmother passed away, and during her funeral my aunt backed a truck up to her apartment and cleaned it out. To make matters worse, my aunt went a step further and filed an insurance claim and police report against my family saying we were responsible. Of course, nothing ever came of it because we didn’t do what she said we did, but she took everything and didn’t offer to give us even the smallest of mementos. We didn’t care because there was nothing of my grandmothers we wanted, but it is polite to ask.

I wish I could say this was the only time I have seen something like this happen. In fact, today I received a call from a longtime friend whose mom is in hospice, and my friend’s nephew and uncle have begun cleaning out her mom’s apartment and taking everything. They refuse to let my friend, her only living child, enter the apartment, take anything, or look at any type of documentation giving them any type of authority in this matter, not to mention that her mom is still alive. This is in very poor taste to be taking people’s belongings while they are still alive like vultures. And it is not appropriate to remove anything without the proper authority to do so.

This stuff happens all the time and it is highly immoral.

If somebody you know is in hospice or they pass away, be respectful of the process. It is very likely that person had a plan, and that plan is required to be followed according to the law. It is not a free-for-all like Black Friday where everybody jumps in and fights over the 65” 4K TV. It is a civilized process, or it should be.

If you are in a position like my friend who called today, ask yourself if there is any asset worth going to war over with people who clearly have no respect for the law or for her mother’s wishes. Most assets are not worth all of that. And if they are, that is what probate court is for. Get yourself a great estate planning attorney and let these vultures go in front of a judge to explain why they cleaned the place out while she was still alive! That might teach them a little something.

There’s a reason people plan for their eventual passing, to hopefully avoid this type of circus from happening. If you haven’t done your estate plan, make sure you get to an estate planning attorney right away to get your plan done and in writing. If you don’t know a good attorney, we can introduce you to a few.

In this case, my friend is going to walk away with nothing because it just isn’t worth it, just as we did when I was young. But ultimately, life goes on and people have to live with the consequences of their own actions.

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