What will happen to my brother's share of inheritance if he cannot be found?

2 answers | Last updated: Jun 20, 2016
Birdland1950 asked...

My brother was named as one of the beneficiaries in our father's will, but he can't be found. What will happen to his share of inheritance? He was left cash.

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

Most probate courts operate under the rule that the executor, or person who is named in the will to round up and distribute the property as it directs, must make a "reasonable" efforts to locate all beneficiaries "within a reasonable time."

If the court is satisfied that your brother cannot be found, then the money he was to receive under your father's will should go instead to people or charities in this order:

  • the alternate beneficiary named to take that property if the will included one
  • the residuary beneficiaries named in the will, who commonly are named to take any property that might be left over once the will is administered, or
  • your father's closest relatives, as determined by the laws of your state.

Community Answers

Geo2015 answered...

I've been looking at these issues for awhile now... and it sounds like people with large claims or a great deal of missing inheritance assets need to be checking out some of the big time probate research investigation services or heir locator services... at least they appear to have deep legal connections and wide forensic genealogical access. From what I can see, seasoned probate investigation services, established probate and estate research firms, have all the access in the world to all the right databases and records... to help prevent fraudulent inheritance claims, plus provide estate attorneys and their executor clients the ability to quickly start connecting legitimate heirs to unclaimed inheritance assets. I'm not even sure that if it was me locating missing heirs, or locating a missing estate, or unclaimed inheritance assets, that I might need forensic genealogy to be finding missing heirs or unknown heirs... that is to say, missing heirs to unclaimed estates. I do know however that I certainly don't know enough about probate research investigation, like, for example, the American Research Bureau, the www.arb.com firm or maybe the www.heirfinder.com firm in Salt Lake City, Utah, where all the genealogical records are... I don't understand the basics for locating missing heirs and beneficiaries, to be involved with locating and verifying "rightful heirs", or verifying beneficiaries to an estate. I would surely need one of those seasoned heir location services, or get a referral from an attorney for a solid probate & estate research company that did case evaluations for trust and estate lawyers - the type of firm I could have some confidence in.