Just because a loved one leaves assets to you in his will, that does not guarantee that you will immediately receive those assets. If the probate court cannot locate you following your family member's death, it will turn the unclaimed funds over to a holding office regulated by the state. While some state agencies, such as West Virginia's treasury department, make an effort to locate the rightful owners of unclaimed property, not all agencies are as thorough. If you suspect that a deceased relative may have left you an inheritance, targeted sleuthing helps you uncover and claim the missing funds.
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Locating a Will
Visit the county courthouse in the county where your deceased relative died. If you live too far away to visit the courthouse in person, contact the court clerk via telephone.
Ask the court clerk to direct you to the appropriate records department for researching wills. Your deceased relative's will should list his assets and the intended beneficiaries.
Provide the clerk with your name and address and allow the clerk to make a copy of your photo I.D. If you are conducting your search over the phone, the court may request that you mail a copy of your photo I.D. before it will proceed with your records search.
Provide the clerk in the appropriate records division with your deceased relative's name, date of death and any other identifying information you have about the individual. The clerk will then either conduct a search through a computerized records index to locate your deceased relative's information or direct you to a physical records index.
Search the records index for your deceased relative's surname. Write down the information contained in the index. This index notes which will book contains a physical copy of the will. If you are conducting your search via phone, ask the clerk to conduct this search for you.
Locate your deceased relative's will in the corresponding will book using the information from the index.
Request permission from the clerk to photocopy the will if the search is successful. Most courts charge a nominal fee to photocopy records. If you are conducting your search via phone, request that the court send you a copy of the will via mail.
Unclaimed Property Search
Gather as much identifying information about your deceased relative as possible, such as his full name, date of death and, if possible, his Social Security number.
Contact the state unclaimed property office in your deceased relative's state of residence by mail or telephone. Provide the unclaimed property office with your name and address. Request a claim form.
Fill out the claim form when it arrives, including as much identifying information about your deceased relative as possible.
Read the claim form carefully. Note any additional documentation the unclaimed property office needs to complete the search. The documentation required may vary by state but could include such items as your photo I.D., a copy of your Social Security card or a copy of the deceased's birth or death certificate.
Make copies of any documents the unclaimed property office needs to complete the search.
Mail the claim form and required documentation to the unclaimed property office. The office will process your request and notify you when and if it locates property you are legally entitled to claim.