When you’re the trustee of someone’s estate, you have to take reasonable steps to identify and locate that person’s heirs. In today’s world of highly mobile people, that’s not always easy — but not doing so can create massive headaches. An inadequate search can even leave you exposed to legal liabilities down the line if the heir suddenly resurfaces after an estate has been settled.
So what can you do? You have to make a genuine effort to locate all the heirs of the estate — even if one of them took off for parts unknown a long time ago. Even if you’re unsuccessful, documenting your efforts is the best way to protect yourself if the heir happens to turn up later. Some of the most common ways to track down a missing heir include:
- Contacting other known relatives (even other heirs) to try to locate the missing heir
- Placing a notice in the local paper for several weeks asking the heir to contact you
- Using the internet to search for the missing heir’s contact information or social media pages
- Trying to locate the heir through voting records, the Social Security Administration and other government entities
- Hiring a reputable company that specializes in locating missing heirs or finding people
The delays that can be caused by a missing heir are significant and may increase the complications you have with the other heirs. They may not appreciate the responsibility you have and may be upset that the probate process is being slowed down.
If you’re struggling with issues involving a missing heir or other problems with an estate, contact our office to learn more about how we can help.