There are a number of circumstances where the police will seal an apartment after the death of a family member or close friend. The police will most often seal the apartment when the death is reported to them in order to preserve assets and evidence. You do not want looters coming in to take the Decedent’s family heirlooms and neither does the police.

When you visit the apartment you will see the police tape across the door.   The building manager will say you have to get access from the police and the police will tell you to go to court.

How then do you unseal a residence?

  1. Go to the Miscellaneous Department in the county where your friend of family member has died. Ask for a Petition to Unseal the Residence and Examine Apartment.
  2. You can fill out this Petition, as well as a Proposed Order to unseal the residence. You will also need to provide proof that you are either the next of kin, or that you have permission from the next of kin to conduct this search. For example, if your aunt died, you have to show that your aunt did not have children, parents, or siblings who are living and who want to conduct this search. If your mother died, you have to obtain an authorization from your brother that you can conduct this search.
  3. After you have gathered all of the forms, go to Court, file the forms, and pay the $20 fee. The Surrogate’s Court will review the forms and, if all in good order, will usually issue the Order within a few hours.
  4. Once the Order is issued, call the Police precinct holding the keys to the apartment. The Police will either tell you to meet them at the apartment or to come to the precinct to be escorted to the Apartment.
  5. When you open the Apartment, you can search for a Will, Burial Deed, Insurance, or other significant information immediately related to burying the Decedent or Probating his Will. After you have conducted you search, the Police will then seal the residence again and tell you to come back with Letters.

If you find the Will, you should then proceed to Probate the Will.

if you do not find a Will, you can either do a Proceeding to Open the Safe Deposit Box or a Petition for Administration.

Happy Investigating!

Additional resources provided by the author

For more information, please contact probate and estate planning attorney Regina Kiperman:
Phone: 917-261-4514
Or visit her at her new location:
80 Maiden Lane
Suite 304
New York, NY 10038

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