Brooklyn Heir Finder Lawyer

Having a will is a good way to specify exactly what you would like to happen to your property after your death. You can list specific family members, friends and even organizations that you want to inherit gifts from you after you pass away. Based on your relationship with a beneficiary and that beneficiary's interests and needs, you can be very specific about which asset you leave to each person or institution. For example, if you have a niece who always admired your fine china, you could specify in your will that you are leaving your china to your niece. Or, if your nephew has always wanted your classic car, you can surprise him by leaving it to him in your will. But what happens if a person you mention in your will as a beneficiary cannot be located when it is time for your executor to distribute your assets? Due to a variety of circumstances, you may lose track of family members and friends over the years. However, you may still be fond of that person and may want to leave a gift to him or her in your will. If you are an executor of an estate and are having trouble locating beneficiaries named in a will, distributing the estate may be delayed. Even worse, the missing heir's distribution may end up going to the state. To avoid the consequences of not being able to locate an heir consider contacting a Brooklyn Heir Finder Lawyer to help you locate the missing heirs to ensure that the decedent's final wishes are fulfilled.

The Probate Process

When someone dies, the executor named in the last will and testament is responsible for managing the estate in a way that ensures that the wishes of the deceased are fulfilled. The process begins when the executor petitions the New York Surrogate's Court to admit the will to probate. The Surrogate's Court judge will review the will to make sure it is valid. If the Surrogate's Court determines that it is valid, it will enter an order to admit it to probate. The executor will then begin the process of distributing the assets by first inventorying and valuing the assets of the estate. The executor will then pay the estate's debts. Finally, the executor will distribute the assets to the beneficiaries according to the wishes of the testator.

This seemingly uncomplicated process can become very complicated if any of the named beneficiaries or heirs are difficult to locate. Sometimes a testator passes away years, even decades after executing his or her will. During this time a named beneficiary may lose contact with the testator or the testator's family. The executor is charged with making sure that the testator's wishes as memorialized in his or her will, are followed. The executor must make an effort to find the missing heir. In the meantime, the portion of the estate that is designated for the missing heir remains undistributed.

Searching for a Missing Heir

The job your executor is to wind up your affairs by protecting your assets until they it has been transferred to the beneficiaries who you name in your will. When beneficiaries are not easily located, the executor's job is more challenging. Your executor must, however, make a reasonable effort to find your missing heirs.

There are many reasons that an heir may be difficult to find. If the you and testator had a falling out that resulted in a conscience effort to stay away from each other, then the missing heir may resist any effort for your representative to find him or her. In other case it could be simply a matter drifting apart as often happens as people age and lives take different paths. In other cases, unfortunately, the missing heir may have passed away without your being notified.

Whatever the reason for that the heir went missing, your executor should take advantage of the many resources that are available for finding people. In most cases an heir is not truly lost or missing. In such cases very little effort is involved in locating that heir. In other cases it may be a lot more difficult to find the heir. However, using resources such as the internet, publishing notices in newspapers, contacting the Social Security Administration may provide clues as to the whereabouts of the missing heir.

Consequences of Not Finding a Missing Heir

Eventually, if the heir is not found and the asset is not claimed, it will be distributed according to New York's intestate succession rules. NY EPTL § 4-1.1. New York intestacy laws are very detailed and specific as to who can be considered an heir. Only spouses and blood relatives are identified as possible heirs. If, for example, you are survived by your spouse, but have no children, your spouse will receive your entire estate. If you are survived by both your spouse and your children, then your spouse will receive the first $50,000 of your estate and the balance will be divided between your spouse and your children, with your spouse receiving 50% and the children sharing the other 50%. Your children will share in 100% of your estate if you do not have a surviving spouse. There are also provisions for when parents, grandparents and other blood relatives will share in an estate. NY EPTL § 4-1.1

Ultimately, it is very possible that the missing, named heir's legacy will end up being inherited by a statutory heir, contrary to your wishes. In some cases, if your named heir cannot be located and there are no statutory heirs available, the property will escheat to the state. Another result that you did not intend.

To avoid delays in probate, potential probate litigation, intestate succession, and escheat due to heirs that cannot be located, you should routinely review your will to make sure that you have not changed who you would like to name as your beneficiaries. If you have not been in touch with someone for many years, you may decide that you no longer wish to leave a gift to that person. You should also make sure that your executor has up-to-date contact details for your named beneficiaries.

Being an executor of a will and being charged with the task of distributing estate assets is a complex responsibility. Along with collecting assets and paying debts, one of the primary jobs of an executor is to make sure that estate assets are distributed to the beneficiaries you designate. It is essential that an executor make reasonable efforts to locate hard-to-find beneficiaries. To help you manage the process as efficiently as possible and to help you resolve problems that arise, it is important for you to have experienced representation. The staff at Stephen Bilkis & Associates, PLLC will help you resolve estate administration issues. Contact us at 1.800.NY.NY.LAW (1.800.696.9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your estate plan. We serve individuals throughout the following locations:

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