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What if you can’t find a beneficiary or heir to an estate?

On Behalf of | Nov 5, 2023 | Probate |

The personal representative of an estate has a lot of responsibilities, and that includes making certain that all the beneficiaries and heirs of the estate are properly notified that probate has begun.

Unfortunately, that can be easier said than done. It’s not uncommon for family members and friends to lose touch over the years. When someone who may have an interest in the estate can’t be located, that can make it difficult for a personal representative to discharge their duties.

Moving forward

Ultimately, if the missing beneficiary or heir cannot be located, the assets that would ordinarily be theirs will be turned over to the state and held for 21 years. If they go unclaimed for that time, those assets become state property. Before that happens, however, you’re generally expected to show that you’ve made a significant effort to locate that person.

You may need to:

  • Contact the missing person’s known family members, friends and associates to see if they have any information about their whereabouts.
  • Contact their last known employer to see if they left any forwarding information for their paperwork or final pay – or if any of their work friends have stayed in touch.
  • Publish a notice in the local paper or in other public places in the hopes that they or someone they know will see it and respond.
  • Search online through social media platforms to see if you can locate them.
  • Checking property records and other public databases to see if they can reveal any clues about their location

There are even private investigation firms that specialize in locating missing beneficiaries or heirs. That being said, you should work closely with the probate court to make sure that your efforts are in line with the court’s expectations. You may also need the court’s consent to spend estate funds on the process. Seeking legal guidance proactively can help as well.