Nassau County Heir Finder

Making a will is a way of indicating how you want your assets disposed of upon your death. You can give specific items to specific family members, leave your entire estate to one person, or leave property to an organization. Most people have reasons why they want certain people to get a portion of their estate. In some cases when it is time to distribute the estate one or more beneficiaries cannot be found. Due to a number of reasons you may lose track of family members and friends. This does not mean that you do not want to leave that person a gift in your will. If you are an executor of an estate or another interested party and are having trouble locating beneficiaries named in a will, consider contacting a Nassau County heir finder attorney who will help you find missing heirs to ensure that the decedent's final wishes are fulfilled.

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Probate

When someone dies her executor 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. For example, the judge will make sure that the will was properly signed and witnessed. If the judge determines that the will is valid, the judge will enter an order to admit it to probate. The executor will then begin the process of managing the estate and ultimately distributing the assets to the beneficiaries according to the wishes of the testator.

This seemingly straightforward process can become challenging if any of the named beneficiaries cannot be found. Sometimes a testator passes away years, even decades after executing her will. During this time a named beneficiary may lose contact with the testator or the testator's family. Because the execute must fulfill the wishes of the testator as stated in the will, 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 in the estate undistributed.

Searching for a Missing Heir

Whatever the reason for that the heir went missing it is the job of the executor to 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, speaking to family and friends of the hard-to-find person, and contacting the Social Security Administration may provide clues as to the whereabouts of the missing heir.

Consequences of not finding a missing heir

If after making a reasonable effort the executor cannot locate the missing person Eventually, if the heir is not found and the asset is not claimed, it will be distributed to other heirs 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 is a decedent’s heir. Only surviving 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 surviving 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.

If an heir is not found it is possible that that heir’s gift will go to the state. Under New York law, if your named beneficiary or heir cannot be located and there are no statutory heirs available, the property will escheat to the state. Most people would want to avoid this result.

To avoid delays in distributing an estate, 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 current contact details for your named beneficiaries.

Contact the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates.

The process of estate administration can be very complex and can take many unexpected turns. To help you navigate the process as efficiently as possible and to the help you resolve problems that arise such as finding a missing heir, it is important for you to have experienced representation. The staff at the Law Offices of Stephen Bilkis & Associates will help you develop an overall estate plan that reflects your individual goals. Contact us at 1-800-NY-NY-LAW (1-800-696-9529) to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your estate plan.

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