How HeirSearch Helps Settle Estate Ownership Matters


By: HeirSearch.

When the decedent’s will is contested by its beneficiaries, or the will is invalid, how do executors, administrators, trustees, fiduciaries, bank and trust officers, and their counsel establish rightful property succession and thus fulfill their fiduciary duties?

Dying intestate or without a will dictates that the intestacy laws of the state in which the deceased resided determine what happens to the assets and property in their estate and which heirs are entitled to assets. However, not all property passes via intestate succession. Alternatively, when there is a will and the beneficiaries, family, and next of kin forgo the inheritance, the property escheats to the state’s ownership.

California, for example, has a five-year waiting period after which the state is legally entitled to own the property if no claims to it are made and no beneficiaries are legally established. Upon paying the creditors and barring legal arrangements, the state would then be the property’s rightful owner.

Due Diligence and Fiduciary Duty in Establishing Rightful Ownership

A beneficiary’s rights to the property or estate are concretely laid out under a trust or will. However in the absence of a formal Estate Plan, heirs are considered “next of kin”, meaning that should the estate owner die intestate, the decedent’s heirs would be entitled to any property and assets in the estate.

Succession order is dictated by state law. Each state has its own laws of descent and distribution. In most cases, it follows spouse, children, descendants, and then close relatives. The distribution of assets may also vary depending on whether the state takes a ‘community property approach’ or a ‘common law approach’.

Estate professionals carry a fiduciary duty of due diligence to locate rightful property heirs. State-specific intestate laws and waiting periods should only come into effect when no rightful heirs or beneficiaries to an estate can be established.

These variables make searching for heirs an extremely challenging task if taken on alone.

That’s why estate professionals rely on HeirSearchTM for our exceptional research capabilities and genealogical resources, which empower them to fulfill their fiduciary duty and establish legal property ownership.

Do You Need Help Establishing Rightful Heirship?

HeirSearch works with executors, administrators, trustees, fiduciaries, bank and trust officers, and their counsel to establish kinship for legal purposes. Since 1967, we’ve successfully completed tens of thousands of worldwide searches.

If you’re facing a challenge establishing ownership of estate property, HeirSearch can help. Our professional researchers help trust and estate professionals through expert assistance identifying and locating property owners.

We offer no-cost, no-obligation consultations, court-ready documents, and reasonable, non-percentage-based search fees.

Feel free to reach out with any questions — we look forward to connecting!

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As the industry’s leading forensic genealogy experts and heir finders, We Find Missing Heirs a Better Way®. We can help with even the most complex property matters, spanning multiple genealogical connections and geographies.


This report is for informational purposes only and is intended only as a reference. HeirSearch does not endorse or recommend any of the products or services offered in the third-party articles or content contained within. We cannot guarantee the accuracy or effectiveness of the same and will not assume any liability related to the same. Additionally, nothing contained herein may be construed as legal advice. All offers are void where prohibited by law. Copyright © International Genealogical Search Inc. All rights reserved.