How Forensic Genealogists Support Estate Professionals & Their Probate Obligations


By: HeirSearch

The duty of administering an estate extends far beyond the distribution of assets. In many jurisdictions, there are explicit requirements for estate and trust professionals to reach out to the heirs during the estate administration process to provide notice of the proceedings. Statutes and administrative requirements can differ from state to state, which creates an added layer of complexity in the estate administration process.

In this blog, we explore the essential rules and regulations of governing an estate and trust professional’s responsibilities and the scenarios where heirs who have to be notified cannot be readily located. In such cases, we delve into why having a forensic genealogist can be a pivotal solution to these challenges.

Understanding the Duty of Estate and Trust Professionals

In general, estate and trust professionals are required to administer an estate in strict accordance with the terms outlined in the governing testamentary document or, in the absence of such documentation, under the statutory rules of intestacy. This responsibility involves the meticulous and critical process of asset distribution among heirs or beneficiaries.

When required by state legislation, part of an estate and trust professional’s duty is to ensure that they have given notice to the heirs before proceeding with the distribution of the estate. When an heir is missing or unknown, the probate proceedings can be delayed and become more complex. Heirs may be missing for a variety of reasons: convoluted family structures, global migration, missing documentation, and familial disputes to name a few. The variety found in each case makes finding missing or unknown heirs an even more arduous task.

What Happens When an Heir Is Missing or Unknown?

In cases where a will exists, it may delineate specific instructions on how to handle the estate if a beneficiary remains untraceable throughout the probate process. In intestacies or situations where the will is silent on the matter of missing heirs or provides no guidance, the applicable state law will dictate the course of action for the probate case. Certain jurisdictions treat the missing beneficiary or heir as deceased, enabling the court to distribute any assets as outlined in the will or the relevant state laws governing the estate of a deceased heir. Alternatively, intestate succession laws may come into play for a deceased heir in the absence of specific testamentary provisions.

There are several methods to locate missing heirs, but they are often resource and time-intensive. For instance, independent research requires estate professionals to spend a significant amount of time accessing databases and searching through records, often without tangible results or success in locating missing heirs.

If an heir cannot be successfully located, the estate and trust professional typically has to provide substantial proof of their efforts and submit a sworn statement. This places the burden of responsibility on estate and trust professionals and can delay the process of the actual distribution of assets. An estate professional’s job is already time-intensive – in the case of missing heirs, this adds to their obligations and risk.

How Forensic Genealogists Can Play a Role in Resolving Missing or Unknown Heir Challenges

Forensic genealogists leverage advanced research practices to alleviate the strenuous process of locating missing heirs. They do so through obtaining and analyzing database and court record searches, historical records, interviews, online platforms, public archives, and even DNA reports, with access to global networks for efficient heir location.

Their methodologies reduce resource burdens on estate and trust professionals. Moreover, their court-proof reports streamline legal processes, providing clarity and robust evidence for smooth estate administration.

These tools provide estate and trust professionals with a higher success rate and stronger proof and documentation, allowing them to fulfill their obligations in a more time-efficient, cost-effective manner. This approach also supports estate and trust professionals should an heir not be located allowing them to demonstrate that they conducted a methodical, analytical search to provide notice or distribute the assets.

How HeirSearch Helps Estate And Trust Professionals Fulfill Their Obligations

In the realm of estate administration and the intricate process of locating missing or unknown heirs, HeirSearch stands out as a force in forensic genealogy. With an extensive history since 1967, HeirSearch has consistently demonstrated a remarkable 97% success rate in successfully identifying heirs and beneficiaries.

HeirSearch sets itself apart from other firms in the industry such as heir hunters by only conducting, authorized searches, ensuring clients are quoted a set fee in advance, and never initiating independent research or charging a percentage of the heirs’ share. This commitment to integrity is key in providing estate and trust professionals with the confidence and assurance that the information obtained is both accurate and reliable. HeirSearch specializes in delivering court-ready reports streamlining the estate administration process, and easing the effort required to fulfill probate obligations.

Estate and trust professionals working through the challenges of heir identification and location can rely on HeirSearch to be a trustworthy support in the process. Our comprehensive approach, refined over decades of experience, encompasses cutting-edge genealogical research methods and a vast network of resources.

If you’re looking for support in this process or have general questions, please connect with us below.

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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.