Estate planning helps bring peace of mind and a sense of security, both in our lifetime and beyond. While we cannot predict our fate, we can at least dictate how our money and property will be distributed and ensure that we provide for our loved ones. Physical security is a big part of feeling emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually secure. More Americans have a home security system than have an estate plan. If we do not protect our property in the here and now, it will not be there to pass on later. End-of-life situations can present thieves with opportunities to take advantage of vulnerable families. A home security system can fit nicely into estate planning goals, providing an extra layer of protection when we are gone—both temporarily and permanently.
Are You Protected from Property Crime?
Property crimes are the leading type of crime in the United States. Every year, around 2.5 million homes are burglarized. A break-in occurs every twenty-six seconds, and a burglary occurs every fifteen seconds. Yet fewer than half of Americans have a home security system. In 2021, approximately $737 billion worth of property was reported stolen in residential burglaries. The top items taken by thieves were vehicles, cash, clothing, jewelry, household goods, office equipment, and electronics. Police solve only about one out of eight reported burglary cases.
Criminals are keenly aware of which homes have a security system and which do not. According to criminology research, more than 80 percent of would-be burglars check for an alarm before attempting a burglary, and 60 percent say they look for an alternate target if a property has an alarm. Most burglars say they would break off an intrusion in progress upon discovering a home security system.
Incorporating a Security System into Your Estate Plan
Those who have a home security system are ahead of the curve. A survey commissioned by YouGov found that just 38 percent of Americans own a home security product. However, that number is higher than the roughly one-third of Americans who have an estate plan. If you have both a home security system and an estate plan, then you are probably proactive about planning for possible contingencies. Additionally, you may want to consider the following when setting up your first home security system or updating your current plan:
Give Access to a Trusted Decision-Maker
You may have already given a house sitter, pet sitter, friend, or neighbor access to your security system. While they can enable and disable the alarm on an emergency basis, decision-makers you have designated in your estate plan to act on your behalf—such as a personal representative, trustee, guardian, or financial or medical power of attorney agent—may need access as well.
In fact, a trusted decision-maker may have a legal duty to keep your property secure in accordance with your wishes, which can include using the security system. Or, if you do not have a system currently but wish to incorporate security technology as an added layer of protection after your death or incapacity, you can specify that in your estate plan.
When providing access to a security system that you installed, make sure the person you are entrusting has all the information they need.
- Wired systems are typically operated with a password-protected control pad.
- Wireless systems can be controlled through a smart device app that requires login credentials.
- There are also systems monitored 24/7 by a professional security company that calls you—or a neighbor, friend, or family member—to verify an alert. With a monitored system, provide the company with the contact information of somebody other than you who can receive alerts.
An Empty and Unsecured House Is Enticing to Criminals
Security system costs are an expense of the estate. Depending on their features, they run between $250 to $2,000, exclusive of monthly fees. This may be money well spent protecting your property. Authorities have warned in recent years of thieves using public obituaries and social media posts to target the homes of deceased people.
Burglars are more likely to break into a home that they know is unoccupied. It can take months for a family to go through a loved one’s home and inventory everything in it as part of the estate administration process. In between visits, the property may be more prone to break-ins.
In addition to installing a security system to deter crime, you might also instruct your family and friends to avoid excessive sharing of obituary information. Keep the circle of trust close, because cyber snoops could be digitally casing your house.
Security and Peace of Mind Go Hand in Hand
Having a plan in place that incorporates wills, trust, powers of attorney, advance directives, and other legal documentation helps eliminate some of life’s uncertainty. Without an estate plan, you are leaving your legacy to chance. In death as in life, it is the small details which can make the biggest difference. A will is just the beginning of a strong, well-thought-out estate plan. When the time comes for your loved ones to deal with your estate, it will be important for your trusted helpers to have access to your home security system and other account information.
Our lawyers can help you put together an estate plan that leaves nothing out, including your digital property, home systems, and personal accounts. To ensure that every “t” is crossed and every “i” is dotted in your estate plan, reach out to our office to schedule an appointment. Nielsen Law PLLC provides family-focused estate and business planning to individuals and families in Austin, Round Rock, Cedar Park, and the Central Texas area. For more information, and to learn about our firm, please contact us. We look forward to working with you.
 Burglary Statistics, The Zebra (Jan. 31, 2023), https://www.thezebra.com/resources/research/burglary-statistics/.
 Deane Biermeier, Surprising Home Burglary Stats and Facts, Forbes (Jan. 23, 2023), https://www.forbes.com/home-improvement/home-security/home-invasion-statistics/.
 Univ. N.C. Charlotte, Through the Eyes of a Burglar: Study Provides Insights on Habits and Motivations, Importance of Security, ScienceDaily (May 16, 2013), https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130516160916.htm.
 Survey Spotlights Top Motivations for Most Home Security Purchases, Security Sales & Integration (Sept. 30, 2019), https://www.securitysales.com/research/survey-home-security-purchases/.
 Lorie Konish, 67% of Americans Have No Estate Plan, Survey Finds. Here’s How to Get Started on One, CNBC (Apr. 11, 2022), https://www.cnbc.com/2022/04/11/67percent-of-americans-have-no-estate-plan-heres-how-to-get-started-on-one.
 Mariel Loveland, How Much Does a Home Security System Cost?, Angi (Apr. May 9, 2023), https://www.angi.com/articles/how-much-does-it-cost-install-home-security-system.htm.
 Jasmin Caldwell, Police Warn Public about Thieves Who Use Online Obituaries to Break into Homes While Away at Funerals, KCEN TV (Jan. 8, 2021), https://www.kcentv.com/article/news/local/police-warn-public-about-thieves-who-use-online-obituaries-to-break-into-homes-while-away-at-funerals/500-36e46c07-7b20-4311-8bee-652501561624.