When transferring personal items of a decedent's estate it is not always very clear exactly who is entitled to receive these items, or tangible personal property.
There are a couple of ways in which this should be done. It's quite easy when there is a will or trust that stipulates who is to get what. Once and inventory is done then the assets can be distributed accordingly. If nobody is specifically mentioned for receiving a particular item then the beneficiaries should discuss with each other about who gets what. If there is an agreement and the executor approves, that's great, if not, then the property ought to be sold and the proceeds split to the beneficiaries.
What you should never do as a beneficiary is to go through the decedent's belongings and just take whatever you want. Even if an item seemingly has nothing but sentimental value. But this does happen all the time and is not easy to prevent. Trying to recover personal property once proper administration begins is nearly impossible.
If you are an executor the best practice is to make sure that the real property is on lock down until you can get in there and do what you need to do. Even if this means changing the locks. Some family members might not like it, but the responsible and rational ones will probably thank you for it.
Please consult with a professional Los Angeles area Estate Administration Attorney to go over your executor duties and other fiduciary responsibilities.
*This blog entry was not written by an Attorney and should not be constituted as professional legal advice.