Missing heir location – what is it and when is it needed?

Our main business at Finders International is the identification and location of missing and unknown beneficiaries to estates, property and assets around the world. However, as our services are niche and our contact with the public is prompted by some money being due to them, we can often be greeted with natural skepticism.

So to get back to basics, we have answered some simple questions in this article and described the services we provide to the legal profession, trustees and guardians and all manor of companies who need to find missing heirs.


When are missing heirs commonly sought?

The most common situations where missing heirs need to be located are:

  • When someone dies and their next of kin are unknown
  • When a property has lain abandoned and vacant
  • When a bank account, insurance policy, pension or other fund has remained unclaimed for a number of years
  • When a person dies or relocates and money becomes payable to them, but they or their heirs cannot be found by the company holding the money due to them
  • When there are missing or unknown heirs to a trust fund, guardian fund or conservatorship
  • When professional documented research is required to support claims to an estate or other fund by a solicitor or Court


Intestacy and Probate cases

When a person dies without a valid Will, this is called an ‘intestacy’ or ‘dying intestate’.

The deceased’s property and assets will then pass to their next of kin in accordance with the intestacy law governing their place of domicile (where they usually lived). However, if they have physical property, such as a house or an apartment abroad, that may be subject to the instestacy law of the country in which it is situated.

One thing that is clear with each probate case is that every family is different.  Some families agree on what should happen with the estate, property and assets, and others do not.  Court cases can arise over bitter family disagreements.

But what happens when the person who passes away intestate has heirs who cannot be located?  Or when they die and have named heirs who cannot be found?

Whether an individual person is an heir or a beneficiary of an estate depends on if the person who passed away made a Will, and if that Will is valid and legal.  When there is a Will, the individuals or legatees named in the Will are beneficiaries of the estate.  But, if there was no Will, the family members who could inherit property are called the heirs “on intestacy” or more commonly the “closest next of kin”.

In some countries there are automatic rights for the deceased’s children to inherit a share of the deceased’s estate, whether or not they made a Will. In other countries a Will can be made to exclude your children and they cannot dispute this.

The steps to find missing or unknown heirs are initially clear and obvious, such as searching paperwork and diaries etc, but unfortunately these tasks are all too often fruitless and time-consuming and a professional approach is needed, especially where the beneficiaries could be asked to repay their inheritance if it later transpired they should not have received anything!

Professional probate researchers or probate genealogists, such as Finder International, will take on board all evidence, rumours and speculation and provide a full report on their findings which families can rely on to ensure all the correctly entitled next of kin have been identified and located.

It may be tempting to shortcut this process, especially when you think you know who all the family are – but you would be surprised how often we find overlooked and entitled family members.

If you want to know more about missing heir location, checking whether or not a family tree or proposed distribution of an estate in intestacy is correct, we are happy to help!

When a probate estate is opened but some of the heirs cannot be located, the personal representative has the responsibility of locating the heirs, or at least making the best efforts possible to locate those heirs.  There are a few ways that this can be accomplished.