Success Stories

Searching for an Intestate U.S. Army Veteran’s Heirs at Law

An attorney in Illinois hired HeirSearch to identify & locate the heirs at law of Gene Sanderson, a U.S. Army veteran who died intestate with no known living family.

In this HeirSearch success story, we examine the case of an intestate decedent who was a U.S. Army Veteran. Probate proceedings for Veterans are often entangled in intricate complexities stemming from their military service.

Regarding Gene Sanderson, a Veteran with no known living family, searching for his heirs at law posed several challenges, including disruptions in familial connections, a broad geographical scope, and limited available information.

Gene’s conservatorship complexities and formalized institutionalization further obscured the process, and the attorney representing Gene’s Conservator turned to HeirSearch to get the job done.

Continue reading to learn how HeirSearch helped the attorney satisfy their client’s fiduciary duty and distribute the estate to its rightful beneficiaries.

Setting the Stage: a Convoluted Conservatorship

The attorney’s client—a Conservator and payor for the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)—was entrusted with the care of Veteran Gene Sanderson. Sanderson’s conservatorship was originally established in Colorado, where he lived at the time. However, Sanderson spent time in various cities across the United States upon his return from service, meaning he didn’t truly have a “home.” And, like many Veterans, his path was not without its challenges.

Devoid of legal guardianship, Sanderson was formally institutionalized in New Mexico in his later years. The original Colorado conservatorship was eventually terminated because Sanderson no longer lived there. And because he was institutionalized, the Conservator opted not to seek further guardianship or conservatorship as the VA had already appointed him as payor.

Sanderson passed away intestate and his Conservator had to identify and locate his living heirs for notice and distribution purposes. Sanderon’s estate consisted of VA funds paid to him throughout his life. The VA also paid all the costs associated with his institutionalization, so the estate’s expenses and debts were minimal.

HeirSearch’s task was to navigate the complicated landscape of Gene Sanderson’s probate to uncover the heirs who held the key to his legacy.

Connecting the Dots

HeirSearch reviewed the following attorney-provided information and used it as the foundation of our search:

  • Gene died intestate
  • A copy of Gene Sanderson’s death certificate, which recorded the mother and father as unknown
  • Gene was believed to have had two brothers:
    • One brother was believed to be alive, but his name was unknown. The only available information was that his address, at one time, was known to be in Dallas, TX, and a phone number that was linked to him roughly 10 years ago
    • The second brother was believed to have died in 1982 – his name and place of death were unknown
  • No research into the family had been conducted; it was believed that Sanderson did not have children
  • Sanderson’s father died in 1983 – his place of death was unknown
  • Sanderson’s mother died in 1982 – her place of death was unknown

We then consulted birth, marriage, and death records, along with U.S. Federal Census records, obituaries, and other relevant documentation to identify any members of Sanderson’s biological family. By tracing Sanderson’s life before his U.S. Army service and conducting interviews with family members and subjects of interest to corroborate their relationships with the information in the documents, we determined that his mother was Vivian B. Sanderson, and his father was Wyatt Raymond Sanderson. We also verified that Gene had a brother named Wyatt Raymond Sanderson II, whose information matched the address and alleged phone number originally linked to him in the attorney’s guidance.

Obtaining the identities of Sanderson’s immediate family allowed us to confidently explore additional records, databases, and sources in the search for his living heirs. As a result, our search progressed, and we confirmed that Sanderson had seven Level I heirs:

  • Two siblings, one deceased and one living
  • Three nieces and nephews, once deceased, two living
  • One deceased grandnephew
  • One living great grandnephew

Our research allowed us to provide the attorney with the contact information of Sanderon’s four living heirs: one sibling, two nieces and nephews, and one great-grandnephew.

Needless to say, the attorney was thrilled with our efficient, accurate search results. Our final report empowered the Conservator to notify Sanderson’s heirs and deliver their fair shares of the estate. In his own words, the attorney’s experience working with HeirSearch was “Great. Would not look anywhere else. Prompt and competent service at a reasonable price.”

HeirSearch: Helping Attorneys in Probate Matters for Over 55 Years

We hope you enjoyed this HeirSearch success story! If you are an attorney who needs to identify the living heirs of an intestacy for notice and distribution purposes, you can trust HeirSearch to help you get the job done.

This story is just one example of our research capabilities that have seen us earn our status as an industry leader for over 55 years. Since 1967, we’ve successfully completed tens of thousands of worldwide searches. Click here to read more HeirSearch success stories.

We offer no-cost, no-obligation consultations, even if you are not planning to start a search right away. Feel free to reach out with any questions — we look forward to connecting.

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Disclaimer: Although accurate in scope, all identifying information, such as names, dates, and locations, have been changed in order to protect the privacy of individuals. Copyright ©International Genealogical Search Inc. All rights reserved.