When someone’s heir is missing, what happens to the estate?

On Behalf of | Feb 17, 2021 | Probate Litigation

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.


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