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How to Find the Value of an Unclaimed Estate

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Unclaimed estates present attractive business opportunities for “heir hunters,” people who track down purported heirs to an estate and charge a significant portion of the inheritance for their services. Heir hunters jealously guard the true value of an unclaimed estate, assuming they even know, in order to obscure their ultimate fee. If you are dealing with an unclaimed estate, how can you find the estate’s value? Continue reading to learn about valuing an unclaimed estate and reach out to a seasoned and professional forensic genealogist for help identifying the proper heirs to an estate.

What is an Unclaimed Estate?

An unclaimed estate occurs when a person dies intestate (without a will or governing trust), and there do not appear to be any family members of the decedent who stand to inherit.

Executors Are Responsible for Valuing an Estate

As part of the estate settlement process, executors of the estate are required to value the assets possessed by the estate. Asset values are used to determine taxes owed, repay debts, determine the cost basis for future sales, and appropriately apportion the estate’s assets among prospective heirs. Executors will need to value assets at both the time of death and at distribution, depending on the nature of the asset and the purpose of the specific asset valuation. Executors must calculate both the gross value (the total value of all assets possessed by the estate) as well as the net value (the value of the estate after accounting for liabilities such as mortgages, lawsuits, medical debts, secured loans, credit cards, and taxes).

Different assets will require different valuation methods. Bank accounts and shares of a publicly-traded company are relatively easy to value by looking at the total dollar amount, or the value of shares times the number of shares held. Other assets are more complex. Executors can and should rely on relevant experts to professionally value more complex or opaque assets such as art, jewelry, and real estate. Extremely complex assets such as partial ownership of a small company or closed corporation may require the use of several professionals, including accountants, appraisers, actuaries, and attorneys.

If you’re an estate administrator in need of skilled heir research services to satisfy due diligence requirements and determination of heirship proceedings, or for assistance identifying and locating missing heirs to an estate, contact the talented and effective forensic genealogists at Von Langen, LLC at 561-748-2936.