An executor is responsible for preserving a decedent’s estate, including any items or real estate the deceased owned. If the executor doesn't safeguard the items against theft, damage and vandalism, he's liable to the estate beneficiaries for the loss. For example, the decedent left a car parked on the street. The executor fails to move the car into storage, so the car is stolen and destroyed. The executor is liable to the siblings for the loss of the car.
The executor may remove items from a decedent's home for safekeeping, even if all siblings inherited equal shares of the estate. For example, three siblings inherit their mother's entire estate, including her home. All three want the same family heirloom, which is located in the home, but none of the three specifically received the heirloom in the will. The executor may remove the heirloom from the home to prevent one sibling from taking the property before the executor decides how to handle the issue.
Accounting for Items
The executor must account for all items the decedent owned, but generally, he does not have to list small household items. Specific requirements are spelled out in state law. He must make an inventory list and file it with the court. If the siblings request an accounting of what he's done so far or a copy of the inventory list, he must provide copies of the documents to them. The executor must include items he removed from the property in the accounting and inventory. The executor should inform the beneficiaries when he removes an item from the decedent’s property. For example, a deceased person left an expensive diamond ring in her home. The executor secured the ring by removing it from the home and placing it in a safety deposit box. He should inform the beneficiaries that he placed the ring in a safety deposit box so the beneficiaries don't think the ring was stolen or one sibling took it.
The executor must decide how to handle items, equally inherited by all the siblings, that he removed from the home because the siblings are arguing over it. He may sell the items and split the money among them if the siblings can't reach an agreement. Furthermore, an executor may change locks on real estate or install a security system to prevent theft of valuable items and to stop siblings from taking items from the home before distribution.