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Forensic Genealogists &
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What Happens to an Unclaimed Inheritance?

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When a person dies without a will, it is known as dying “intestate.” Each state has specific laws concerning what happens to a person’s assets when they die intestate. There are some general guidelines, however. Read on to learn what happens to assets when a person dies intestate or when no proper heir can be found. Call a qualified and effective forensic genealogist for experienced, legitimate, and thorough help identifying and locating the proper heirs to an estate.

Intestate Succession

If a person has a trust or will that dictates the distribution of their estate, the administrator of the estate or the trustee will ensure that their wishes are satisfied. If a person dies without a will or estate plan, then state law will dictate what to do with the assets. Different states have different rules about the precise line of succession, but generally speaking, the decedent’s assets will pass to their next-of-kin in a fair and equal manner. Typically, a surviving spouse will be first in line, followed by surviving children, and then some combination of other relatives–parents, grandchildren, and others. States take different approaches to specify precisely who outranks who or how exactly the property will be apportioned among the qualifying heirs.

If a beneficiary cannot be located, then the property will be distributed in accordance with the wishes of the decedent as best as possible, based on the other terms of the will or trust. If there is no will, or there is no clear answer, and a portion of the estate is left unclaimed by an identified heir, then their portion of the estate will ultimately go to the next-in-line heir or heirs.

What if No Heirs Are Identified?

If no heirs are identified, or if all known heirs predeceased the decedent, then the assets will be forfeited to the state. This form of forfeiture is known as “escheat.” Different state laws start to trigger escheatment earlier or later in the line of succession.

If you’re an estate administrator in need of skilled heir research services to satisfy due diligence requirements and determination of heirship proceedings, or if you need assistance identifying and locating missing heirs to an estate, contact the seasoned and efficient forensic genealogists at Von Langen, LLC at 800-525-7722.