Unfortunately, many people are estranged from close loved ones and family members. Some have even disowned some of the beneficiaries in their will.
But what happens if an individual dies intestate (without a will)? The inheritance passes to family members in accordance with state laws. This means that estranged, or in some cases unknown beneficiaries, can still receive a portion of the estate.
The executor or estate administrator is responsible for the distribution of the estate. As such, it is their job to exercise due diligence and exhaust all possible ways of locating missing heirs and beneficiaries.
How Can an Executor Locate a Missing Beneficiary?
If you are the executor of an estate, it is your responsibility to locate a beneficiary. There are several things you can do to try to locate an heir.
Begin by contacting individuals who may have contact with the missing heir. Loved ones of the deceased and even past or current known employers of the missing beneficiary may have information on where they are located.
Next, you can try contacting the missing beneficiary through methods such as advertising in the local newspaper and sending letters to their known addresses.
If you are unable to get in touch via these methods, you can attempt to locate the missing beneficiary by searching online. Check public records, real estate indexes, or even a skip tracing service.
Finally, if you are unable to locate the missing beneficiary the next step is to hire a private investigator. This is also a good place to start if you as the executor do not have the capacity to look for the missing heir.
Is There a Missing Beneficiary Time Limit?
The limitation period for an executor to wait before distributing the missing heir’s inheritance to the other heirs can vary from state to state. This period is five years in the state of California, while in other states it is 12 years. An attorney can advise you on the limitation period in your location.
At the end of this period, the executor or estate administrator must prove they have done due diligence to locate a missing beneficiary. This is proven through well-documented inquiries.
Part of these inquiries is the legal requirement to advertise in local newspapers to attempt to notify them. The amount of time required to run this ad varies depending on your state. In California, the ad must be run for several weeks in succession.
What if the Beneficiary Cannot Be Found?
The probate courts may step in and issue a grant of probate for the inheritance to be divided among the other heirs. The heirs and administrator can obtain indemnity insurance or pursue a Benjamin order to protect their assets should the missing heir step forward at a later date.
In California, at the end of the five year period it is possible to petition for a court order to declare the missing beneficiary as absentee or deceased.
Get Help Locating Missing Beneficiaries
Are you attempting the administration of an estate that has a missing heir? This type of situation can quickly become complicated. There is legislation in place that dictates the proper steps for handling distribution of an estate with a missing heir, such as the Trustee Act of 1925. It is best to protect yourself by seeking legal advice from an attorney who is familiar with legislation and experienced with estate administration with missing heirs.
The team of experts at The Legacy Lawyers is ready to assist you with due diligence in finding your missing beneficiary. Call us today at 800-840-1998.