As the executor of someone’s estate, it is your responsibility to distribute the deceased person’s assets according to their wishes or state laws.
This can be a complicated process, particularly if there are missing heirs who need to be located before probate can be settled.
Where do you start your search?
Usually, the first place to start is with the deceased’s estate planning documents. With a little bit of luck, they may have had the foresight to keep an updated contact list for all their heirs. If so, this part of your job may be pretty easy. If not, try these tips:
- Search public records: You can search birth, marriage and death certificates to locate potential heirs. You may also be able to find information about property ownership voting records online, both of which may give you their contact information.
- Place ads in local newspapers and forums: Newspapers, Craigslist and community boards on social media sites can all be useful ways to either find heirs or find leads. Keep in mind, however, that you may have to make repeated efforts before you have any success.
- Contact last-known residences, jobs and old friends: If you know where the missing heir used to live or work – or who they used to hang out with on a regular basis – you may be able to locate their forwarding address or trail.
- Hire a private investigator: If you are having trouble locating a missing heir, you may want to consider hiring an “heir locator.” These professionals can have remarkable success tracking down estranged family members, even those with addictions or mental health issues that have caused them to drop off their kin’s radar.
Locating missing heirs can be time-consuming and complex, but it is an important part of the estate administration process – and the only way you can ensure that the deceased’s assets are distributed according to their wishes or state laws. Fortunately, you don’t have to try to manage probate without professional guidance.