and Your Family
Queens Heir Finder
Having a will is a good way to specify exactly how you want your assets disposed of once you pass away. 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 each person or institution. But what happens if a person you list in your will as a beneficiary cannot be located when it is time for assets to be distributed? Due to a variety of circumstances, you may lose track of family members and friends. However, you may still be fond of that family member or friend and may want to leave a gift to that person in your will. If you are an executor of an estate and are having trouble locating beneficiaries named in a will, consider contacting a Queens 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. 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
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.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 Stephen Bilkis and Associates will help you develop an overall estate plan that reflects your individual goals. Contact us at 800-696-9529 to schedule a free, no obligation consultation regarding your case. We represent clients in the following locations: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Long Island, Manhattan, Nassau County, Queens, Staten Island, Suffolk County and Westchester County.