If you accepted the responsibility of administering the estate of a deceased friend or loved one, expect to take on many tasks. You must pay off their debts, inventory their assets and file their final income tax return, for example.
It is also your responsibility to distribute the assets left behind per the wishes of the deceased. However, you must first find those named in the will. How far must you go to locate a missing beneficiary and what will happen if you cannot find them?
Tips for finding missing beneficiaries
Estate administrators must make reasonable efforts to locate a beneficiary. Some ways to meet this obligation include:
- Call all known telephone numbers.
- Speak with those related to the beneficiary.
- Scour social media sites for information
- Send letters to known residential addresses.
- Use reputable internet-based “people” search engines
If the property at stake is very valuable, you might need to spend more money from the estate to locate the beneficiary. For example, you may need to partner with a forensic genealogist to look as thoroughly as possible.
What if you cannot find them?
If your reasonable efforts fail, the court will decide how to address the inheritance. Sometimes, they will allow the other beneficiaries to go ahead and receive their part of the estate and hold the missing person’s portion in trust for a specified period.
Why is this important in estate administration?
If you do not make reasonable efforts to locate missing beneficiaries, you could face accusations of improperly administering the estate. Seeking legal guidance can help in your search. It can also help you avoid other complications that may interfere with your estate administration duties.