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Forensic Genealogists &
International Investigations
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The Role of Public Administrators, and How a Forensic Genealogist Can Help

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Public administrators are government officials who perform an important service by ensuring that a deceased person’s estate is responsibly distributed. The responsibilities of a public administrator can vary from county to county, but most require assiduously cataloguing the property included in an estate, locating all rightful heirs, and ensuring they receive the portion of the estate to which they’re entitled. Learn more about the role of this important public servant and the ways that a forensic genealogist can assist a public administrator. Contact a professional forensic genealogist with any additional questions.

What Services Do Public Administrators Provide?

A public administrator is often the government official tasked with distributing the estates of county residents who died without a will, or for whom a will exists but for which there is no executor. Public administrators may receive notice from a hospital when an individual dies and does not have any known next of kin. Many public administrators work in conjunction with the county coroner, who will notify the public administrator when a body is located and is not claimed by family members within an established time period. Members of the public can also notify the public administrator of a death when no family members are known.

The public administrator’s office will set about attempting to identify the decedent’s next of kin and/or a will. In some cases, the person named to serve as an executor cannot perform the role. The executor may have already passed away, may be incapacitated, or may be a convicted felon (which disqualifies someone to serve as an executor in some states). If no will exists, or if a will exists without someone available to execute it, then the public administrator will begin cataloguing the deceased person’s property and assets. In some cases, such as when no other funds are available to pay for funeral, legal, or administrative costs or the debts owed by the decedent, the public administrator will sell this property. When beneficiaries are known, the public administrator will keep them apprised of how property is being handled. In some cases, the administrator may consult with them on how the property is distributed. Once the estate is settled, the public administrator will produce a detailed accounting for heirs and the probate court of what property was located and how it was distributed.

Identifying and Locating Heirs Requires Time and Resources That Administrators May Not Have

One important role performed by public administrators is to locate and notify those who are entitled to receive a portion of the estate. Conducting an exhaustive search for heirs who may or may not exist can require specialized knowledge. Heir searches that require interstate or international research may demand more time than a public administrator has to spend among their numerous other responsibilities. In these instances, the help of a forensic genealogist can prove invaluable. Experienced forensic genealogists have the network of resources to identify and find unknown heirs and to document their search in a manner that probate courts will accept as evidence.

In most cases, when a public administrator hires outside professionals to help settle an estate, this necessary expense will be paid for out of estate funds. A public administrator has a fiduciary duty to ensure that estate funds are responsibly distributed and cannot spend more than necessary on outside help. Seasoned forensic genealogists understand these constraints and have the experience to conduct thorough searches even when budgets are limited.

If you’re a public administrator in need of expert help in locating heirs to an estate, contact the experienced and effective forensic genealogists at Von Langen, LLC for a consultation at 561-748-2936.