What Are The Personal Representative’s Duties to Locate Heirs?

When someone dies, there are times where locating that person’s heirs is a challenging undertaking. Missing heirs could happen for a variety of reasons, such as an estrangement or, in the case of an intestate estate, close relatives not being alive to collect an inheritance under the intestacy rules. When this happens, the personal representative, usually with his or her Miami estate attorney, has a duty to locate the potential beneficiaries of the estate so that they may be included in probate.

As far as Florida law is concerned, a personal representative must make a “diligent effort” to find beneficiaries of the estate. This is a definition that tends to be somewhat vague when it comes to defining just how far a personal representative has to go to find a beneficiary. Because of this, personal representatives are allowed to act without court involvement to locate a beneficiary, including hiring a private investigator if the costs are reasonable.

There are additional ways to locate people as well, without the involvement of a private investigator. Searches of public records, such as land records or census records can be one valuable tool when it comes to finding people. There are also other ways to locate people, including getting information from government agencies such as the IRS or Social Security. Another way to locate someone would be through vital records, such as marriage, birth or death certificates. A skilled Miami estate attorney would know the tools necessary to help locate a missing beneficiary so that they may collect their inheritance.

A personal representative may want to try some sleuthing of their own, by going through family documents and photo albums of the deceased person. It is possible that in all of that is a name that could lead a personal representative to an heir.

Many personal representatives may wonder what happens to the estate if a beneficiary is never found. In a case such as that, assuming all debts, attorney’s fees, administrative fees, funeral expenses, taxes, etc. are paid, if there are no located beneficiaries, the money will end up going to the state of Florida.

If you are the personal representative of an estate, missing beneficiaries are just one of the many reasons that you should hire a Miami estate attorney. Not doing enough of a search could end up creating legal issues for you down the line if it ends up a beneficiary was not found and did not get his or her inheritance. An attorney will have the skills and tools necessary to perform the research that can help locate a beneficiary, or he or she will know who to hire to do the research. Making sure that all of the beneficiaries are located is one of the most important duties of a personal representative, and you should not do it alone. Call the Law Offices of Albert Gurevich, a Miami estate attorney, at (786) 522-1411.