How Attorneys Can Benefit From a Forensic Genealogist
Forensic genealogists work hand-in-hand with attorneys. Whether you are a probate attorney representing an estate, the estate administrator, or the representative of a client vying for an inheritance, forensic genealogy provides an essential service to serve your client’s interests and protect your law practice. Read on to learn how a forensic genealogist can help you in your legal practice. Call a dedicated forensic genealogist for trusted assistance identifying the proper heirs to an estate.
Identify the Heirs to an Estate
Many people appoint a trusted family attorney as executor of their estate. Should a person die without a will, it falls upon that executor to ensure the estate is administered appropriately. A last will and testament, trust, or other legal instrument is obviously preferred, but many people die intestate (without a will). When a person dies intestate, their estate passes under the state’s intestacy laws.
In many cases, the decedent’s heirs are clear–they have a spouse and/or children. Often, however, it’s less clear. The decedent might not have any children, or they could be estranged from their family. It’s the task of the estate administrator to identify all potential heirs to the estate and ensure that they are transferred their portion of the estate in accordance with the law. A forensic genealogist is an essential part of this task.
The forensic genealogist will conduct research from all relevant databases and gather evidence from various sources to put together a comprehensive picture of the decedent’s relations, both living and deceased. Through that genetic tree, you can identify which relatives remain alive, and apply your knowledge of your state’s intestacy laws to determine which relatives are entitled to inherit. Failing to conduct proper due diligence as an estate administrator is not only a betrayal of the confidence of the decedent; it can also land you in legal trouble. With a thorough genetic profile, you can serve your client’s interests and protect yourself from liability.
Find Missing Heirs
In addition to identifying the missing heirs, a forensic genealogist can help you track them down. It’s not enough to know who is entitled to inherit; you must make reasonable efforts to contact the heirs and inform them of their rights. A forensic genealogist can help you find their last-known addresses and other identifying information in order to ensure you perform your legal duties and that the proper heirs are given their chance to collect.
Support Your Client’s Claim for Inheritance
Probate involves money, and money invites conflict. If there’s no will to dictate which family members receive what portion of the decedent’s estate, the state’s intestacy rules apply. Proving that one putative heir has a greater entitlement to the estate than another requires putting together a clear, comprehensive picture of the decedent’s relations. If you hope to prove that your client is entitled to a share of the estate, especially if that claim is challenged, you need proof of your client’s claim.
A forensic genealogist can gather the evidence necessary to demonstrate your client’s relationship with the decedent and produce that raw information in a format digestible for the probate court. With admissible proof of your client’s identity and their relation to the decedent, you will not be hampered by other claimants with more distant relations or less valid claims.
Evaluate a Putative Heir’s Claim
Likewise, if you have reason to question a putative heir’s claims, a forensic genealogist can help you get a concrete answer. Whether you are an attorney administering an estate or the representative for an heir to the estate, if some long-lost family member shows up out of the blue to claim cash or assets, you are right to be skeptical. With help from a forensic genealogist, you can trace the putative heir’s claim back through the decedent’s genealogical line to evaluate whether they indeed have a legitimate claim.
If their claim is valid, you can proceed with the best picture available of the decedent’s genetic tree. If the putative heir’s claim is not valid; if they, for example, simply share a name with the decedent or they are more distantly related than they originally claimed, you can provide that information to the probate court along with strong supporting documentation. Your forensic genealogist will provide you with the evidence necessary to ensure the appropriate parties inherit their legal property.
If you’re an estate administrator in need of seasoned assistance identifying and locating missing heirs to an estate and for determination of heirship proceedings, or heir research services in order to satisfy due diligence requirements, contact the professional and diligent forensic genealogists at Von Langen, LLC at 800-525-7722.