The probate process is already lengthy enough — but it can get a lot longer if there’s a problem identifying or locating the decedent’s heirs.
Until there’s been a reasonable effort to locate any unknown or missing heirs, nothing can move forward.
How an executor can try to locate a missing heir
There are multiple ways that executors can and should attempt to find any missing heirs so that an estate can be settled. They include:
- Do a search online for the missing heir’s last known address and send communications there to see if there is a forwarding address
- Try a social media search (which may be more successful if the heir has an unusual name or you at least know their current state of residence)
- Look through the property records in the counties where the heir was known to reside
- Check voter registration records if you know in what state the heir lives
- Advertise or “serve by notice” in the local newspaper for several weeks in a row to see if they (or someone who knows them) will notice
- Contact former employers, friends, former partners and extended family members to see if they have any current information or clues
- Hire a private detective or a legal firm that specializes in locating missing heirs
Executors have a big job, and complications like these can make the job very challenging. The delay caused by a missing heir extends the work the executor must do.
Failure to take sufficient steps to find a missing or unknown heir can (and does) result in probate litigation. With that in mind, it’s often wise to reach out for some qualified legal assistance with your problems.