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Search and Recovery of Personal Property

When families suffer a loss, the personal effects left behind often take on significant meaning. Personal effects may be all that is returned to families when the remains of their loved one are not recovered. Collecting and returning these items to families is a critical part of the recovery process. Although belongings are often damaged and reflect the circumstances of the loss, many families keep and treat them as priceless heirlooms. The return of personal belongings, no matter how small, damaged or seemingly insignificant, is so important that many national and international regulations and guidelines mandating the recovery, care and return of these precious items have been enacted worldwide.

Collecting, inventorying, cataloguing and returning these items are a time-consuming and detailed process. It exposes you to the realities of the loss and to very private and personal information of those directly affected. It is also a zero defects environment, with mistakes proving very costly in the court of public opinion and litigation. The extensive and proven experience of Kenyon lowers that risk for you.

PE Process

The Search and Recovery of Personal Property Process


A technical recovery team conducts a detailed search and recovery of the incident area on your behalf; this can include debris or soil removal, working with more specialised salvage teams or even deep-sea recovery vessels. Belongings are then protected to prevent any further damage or deterioration and in most cases, transported to a secured facility. In circumstances where government agencies collect personal property as evidence following a crisis, Kenyon works on your behalf to request custody of that property once investigations have concluded so it can be catalogued and returned to family members.


Specially trained teams use a custom Personal Effects module in Kenyon's propriety database Kenyon Response® to associate or identify ownership of belongings, and arrange for their return. This part of the process includes recovering property found on the deceased from the Kenyon or government-run morgue and ensuring its proper and timely return. During this phase, Kenyon guides you through requesting the family’s wishes. Some families do not wish to participate in the personal effects claim process.

Catalogue and Return:

Photographs of each recovered item are taken to develop a detailed colour catalogue in digital or print versions. The catalogue is available to authorised individuals and families so they can look through and claim items not directly linked to a specific individual.

Throughout the process, constant personal communication is maintained with individuals, families or their representatives to keep them fully informed of the process and status of their requests and claims. To meet the needs of investigations, Kenyon maintains a complete chain of custody and works closely with investigative authorities regarding the disposition of any item recovered. Items can be returned to families either via post, personal delivery, through a government agency or by your staff.

This process can take many months and unclaimed belongings are often retained pending litigation outcome or statutory periods. Kenyon safely and securely stores these items and, when appropriate, arranges for the complete and secure destruction of the unclaimed belongings on your behalf and with your approval.

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