Tracking an Inheritance

By Timothy Mucciante

As the saying goes for real estate, the key to tracking an inheritance is location, location, location – the location of people, records and clues. Details such as where the decedent (the person who left the inheritance) lived, the name of his attorney or accountant, and the name of his executor or trustee all come back to location. When no details are available, then the search may focus on examining databases containing information about unclaimed inheritances.

Search County Records

Many counties offer residents the option of filing and recording their last will and testament and trust documents with the county probate court. If these documents are recorded, beneficiaries of the person making the will (known as the “testator”) will be able to locate these documents when required. Depending on the county, these records may be searched manually or electronically. The key to tracking this information is knowing the county in which the decedent resided.

Ask Family and Friends

Those close to the decedent may have good information about the person's estate that may help track an inheritance. Details such as the decedent’s attorney or executor of the estate are often helpful starting points for a search. Contacting the decedent’s business associates or family and friends may yield useful information. All information that you can obtain may help you track an inheritance.

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Local Newspapers

Most jurisdictions require that before an estate is submitted to probate, a public notice must appear in a local newspaper of general circulation. The purpose of this notice is to inform anyone who has an interest in the estate that the probate process is starting. The notice usually contains the contact information for persons desiring to make claims against the estate's assets.

Unclaimed Inheritance

If no information can be found concerning the inheritance, it may still be possible to track estate assets. Many states have an office of abandoned property, and some have websites that the public can use to search for unclaimed cash or other assets that have been surrendered to the state. Some websites also offer free tools for performing a nationwide search. In addition, the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators may be contacted for assistance in tracking an unclaimed inheritance.

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