My grandmother passed away and my aunt is hiding in her house
My aunt has lived with my grandma for decades, but the last 16 years or so has become a complete shut-in (we suspect agoraphobia, but it's undiagnosed). Grandma provided for her even though she admitted she almost never came out of her room when Grandma was home. Grandma wouldn't admit there was a problem for a long time. My father (grandma's son, aunt's brother) was starting to get involved, but then he got very sick and passed away in 2013 and it's been status-quo ever since.
Well, 2 weeks ago Grandma passed away outside her house. When police tried to talk to my aunt, she ran and hid in her room and wouldn't talk to them. My siblings and I tried calling, not really expecting an answer, but left info and let her know we want to help...now the answering machine is full so we can't leave any new messages. The police have been by at least twice for welfare checks, which she hasn't answered, but they noticed more garbage in the can outside or a window that had been closed since the last time and decided she was alive and left it at that. The county/funeral home decided after 8 days that us grandchildren could/should make the decisions for her final arrangements since my aunt has been unwilling to communicate. We started going by the house and leaving letters in the mail slot. We have no idea what grandma's final wishes were, if she had any kind of will or directive, anything like that. We assume if it anything was set up there's probably record of it in the house, which we can't access if my aunt never answers the door.
Honestly, none of us grandkids wants to have to take over settling the estate. We don't want the house or anything, and would be thrilled if my aunt would take over and keep living her life.... but we don't even know how much food she has in the house, let alone how long until utilities get shut off for lack of payment (we know she potentially has some financial resources in a trust fund from her father, but she never signed anything she needed to access that so its sitting in a trust that my grandma and father were set up as executors(not sure the term), but now they've both passed.
We have now begun the process for probate. Theoretically, if my aunt still refuses to contact anyone, when the probate is done, my brother will be in charge of the estate, and we would then have legal rights to enter the house. If it comes to that, I fear it will be an extremely traumatic day to say the least.
We aren't about to just keep paying all the house bills and leaving food inside to enable her to continue living like a recluse, but I'm not sure what options we have that don't involve forcefully entering the house and her bedroom. The probate stuff will likely take several months so we have time before we really have to come up with a game plan, but it weighs on my mind quite a lot.
If it's your grandmothers home; why can't you enter the home? It seems your Aunt has some mental issues that warrant professional help. If you get Adult Protective Services involved as SUSIEDQQ suggested; they will make an assessment as to her mental soundness and is she capable of taking care of herself and manage the home.
Why are you guys taking are of the bills and her food? Don't make her existence too comfortable. Having to handle your grandmother's funeral should warrant access to the home.
I would get Legal Advise to help guide you guys through this process.