How to deal with the unexpected in a deceased’s property

As a legacy professional, you never know quite what you're going to find when dealing with the deceased's last residence and what challenges it may bring. Thorough property searches can reveal a lot about a person, but also all sorts of hidden assets that need to be dealt with in the administration. Here, we share a handful of scenarios we have encountered and the steps we took to deal with assets.


The deceased was known to be a collector of military paraphernalia. Upon visiting the deceased's home for the first time, it transpired that their collection extended to several firearms and a grenade! It was not known whether the deceased held a gun licence upon inspection of the property. The items were not contained within specialist secure storage, and it was unknown whether the weaponry was live.

Our approach

There was potentially a real and serious danger of harm arising if these items were left in the property. The police were called the same day and because of the presence of the grenade, the local bomb disposal squad attended along with the police to dispose of the items.

Aside from the safe disposal of a firearm, there is also the concern that a weapon could have been used for illegal activity. If you come across a weapon during the course of an estate administration, proceed with caution and if in doubt, be sure to seek advice from the police.


It is common for people to keep cash at home, and sometimes it can be difficult to determine where the cash is kept. We have found cash tucked away under the living room rug along with debt letters, stuffed into the bedroom mattress and even gold bullion in a secret compartment in a chest of drawers.

Our approach

Often property insurance policies do not provide cover for cash held in a property over a certain amount, so the funds should be removed, and it should be considered consider if they can be banked. You also need to consider the reason for cash being hidden, particularly if it is a large amount. It may not be explained by innocently wanting to access money in an emergency.

A personal representative will want to satisfy themselves that the cash does not constitute criminal proceeds. State benefits and care fee financial assessments rely on an individual declaring all capital and income; any undeclared funds can result in an investigation into what was correctly declared and potentially lead to funds being recouped from the estate, even after the person has passed away.

In the case of the bedroom mattress stuffed full of cash, it transpired the deceased had not declared the hidden sum to DWP when in receipt of pension credit, which after some lengthy communications between our team and the DWP resulted in the estate repaying overclaimed benefits.

It is not just cash that can be found in unusual locations; wills and property deeds can also be hidden in the most unlikely of places.


It can be particularly tricky for personal representatives to manage the deceased's pets. This can create all sorts of problems including welfare issues and associated reputational risks.

Our approach

We try to rehome animals in accordance with the deceased individual's wishes. It may be that a family member, friend or neighbour can temporarily take care of the animal until they can be permanently rehomed. We always consult the RSPCA or a local animal shelter when an animal cannot be safely cared for at short notice. Once the pet has been rehomed, it is important to update the vet that the pet was registered, to avoid issues over ownership should the pet need medical care in the future.

In some instances, we need to deal with the remains of deceased pets. This includes ashes located in the property or, in one case, the deceased's stuffed cat found in a drawer.

How we can help

Time and care should be taken to conduct a deep search of the deceased's residence. This could reveal unknown assets and the documents you need to protect the estate assets.

Please contact a member of our Charity Probate team if you require further information on unusual or tricky items you have in an estate matter and how they can be dealt with.