White Paper

How to Search For, Find, and Maximize the Estate Distributions of Heirs

Heir searching is an inherently complicated and time-consuming task, due to various factors, such as:

• Statutes and administrative requirements that vary by state;
• Documents that may be erroneous or out-of-date;
• And crucial information that rests in the hands—or the memories—of unreliable people, some of whom are located in the farthest reaches of the globe.

Consequently, Estate practitioners tasked with dispersing the assets of estates to known—and most pertinently unknown—heirs and beneficiaries may face significant obstacles in fulfilling their fiduciary duties.

That being said, the single biggest barrier to conducting a successful heir search is the unwillingness of many professional heir search firms to charge fair and reasonable fees for their services. Also known as “heir hunters,” such firms monitor court filings to find probate records of estates with unknown heirs and then conduct preliminary research to find a few unwitting heirs to sign percentage-based contracts that may force an heir to relinquish up to half of their inheritance. With these percentage-fee-based heir hunters, the bigger the estate, the bigger the disposition.

This approach is unjust to not only the heirs and/ or beneficiaries, but also to the legal professionals themselves, who have a fiduciary duty.

There is, however, a better way. Hourly fee-based heir search firms, while they make up a minority segment of the industry, are committed to providing thorough, professional heir search services that commence only with written authorization of a legal professional. Unlike percentage-fee-based heir hunters, hourly fee-based professional firms, such as HeirSearch, truly help legal professionals fulfil their fiduciary duty as reasonably and efficiently as possible.

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