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Locating a Missing Beneficiary or Heir


If you are the executor or personal representative of a deceased person’s estate, one of your legal duties is to distribute the deceased’s assets to the beneficiaries or heirs. A beneficiary or heir is someone who is entitled to benefit from a decedent’s estate. However, the work of distributing assets to beneficiaries and heirs is not one without challenges. When dealing with an estate, a situation could arise where a beneficiary or heir cannot be easily located. As the executor or personal representative of the decedent’s estate, you have a legal obligation to use reasonable diligence to try to locate any missing beneficiary or heir. This article explores how to find missing beneficiaries and heirs in probate.

How To Find a Missing Beneficiary or Heir

Family dynamics have changed over the years. Today, family dynamics are more complex than ever before. This is because of things such as multiple marriages, blended families, and adoption. These and many other factors make finding beneficiaries and heirs during probate complicated. However, finding missing beneficiaries and heirs is possible.

First, you could try an online search to find a missing beneficiary or heir. Second, you could try placing a notice in the newspaper. How much it costs to place a notice in the newspaper will depend on the specific paper you choose. You can also follow any leads you may have to find a missing beneficiary or heir. For example, if you find a previous address, that address can help you locate the beneficiary or heir. Other methods of locating a missing beneficiary or heir include contacting past employers and searching property records.

If your efforts bear no fruit, you can consider using a beneficiary/heir search specialist. Beneficiary/heir search specialists check records of, among other things, birth, death, marriage, and adoption to find missing persons. Search specialists cost money. But if you pass the search to a professional, you can save time.

It is crucial that if the decedent is said to have died without a Will, you verify the accuracy of those claims through a Will search before starting the work of locating heirs. If you identify heirs under the state intestacy laws and it is later discovered that the decedent left a Will, the estate could face legal claims. In a case where it is believed the decedent died without a Will, only begin the work of locating heirs after confirming that there indeed is no Will.

What if a Beneficiary or Heir Cannot Be Located?

The best case scenario is that all beneficiaries or heirs are located. However, at times, it is impossible to locate a beneficiary or heir. In such a case, the executor or personal representative can still proceed with administering the estate. In a case where a beneficiary or heir is not located despite the executor or personal representative undertaking a good-faith effort to locate them, the executor or personal representative will likely need to file a sworn statement with the court detailing their efforts. It may also be necessary to file a petition asking the probate court to allow the proceedings to continue. Additionally, before closing the probate case, the executor or personal representative may need to file another petition asking the court to allow them to close the case without the beneficiary or heir.

Contact the Probate Guy for Legal Help

If you need help locating a missing beneficiary or heir, contact the skilled California probate attorney, Robert L. Cohen – the Probate Guy – today to schedule a telephonic consultation.

Southern California Probate Lawyer Serving Orange, Riverside, Anaheim, Whittier & Beyond.

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