Each year, millions of dollars in probate assets go unclaimed because the whereabouts of heirs are unknown.
A Probate estate is opened in the court of law to properly transfer a decedent’s assets to the rightful heirs at law or the legatees if a will or a trust exists. If a person dies with no valid will, the estate assets distribute according to the laws of descent and distribution in the locale in which he or she resided.
Most people either have an estate plan in place or pass away in the company of family. Some, however, have no close family and have lost touch with their heirs. In these cases, an estate may need to be opened by a distant relative, a friend, or a local public administrator. Often, these individuals have only a limited knowledge of the decedent’s extended family and lack the tools to conduct a thorough investigation. Thus, many rightful heirs, who likely had no personal relationship with the decedent, can go unknown to the estate. As a result, their funds could be erroneously claimed by others or be deposited with a government agency as unclaimed property. Either scenario is detrimental to the missing heirs as their rightful shares are likely to be lost forever.
Probate research firms provide a valuable service to society in these ways:
- By identifying estates which have an incomplete or faulty heirship therefore facilitating the need to locate certain individuals who are not known to the estate;
- By providing documentary and conclusive evidence to the court to properly establish an heirship, without which some heirs may be unable to claim their legal entitlement to estate funds;
- By easing the burden placed on courts and attorneys who may lack the expertise to perform a diligent search for missing or unknown heirs.
The practice of probate research or heir searching is all about reuniting lost fortunes with their rightful owners and facilitating an orderly and proper distribution of estate assets.
Since 1956, this has been the specialty of Landex Research, Inc.