Hudson Intelligence conducts probate asset searches for families, executors, banks and law firms to identify assets for effective administration of trusts and estates.
We also locate beneficiaries and missing heirs.
We consult closely with our clients throughout the U.S. and internationally.
Asset Search for Estates and Executors
Executors have a fiduciary duty to identify all assets of an estate during probate, so the funds and property can be appropriately distributed to beneficiaries and heirs. However, surviving family members and legal representatives do not always have sufficient knowledge, on their own, to complete this essential task. After a death, it is fairly common to discover that a decedent’s personal financial records are inaccessible or incomplete.
Fortunately, it is never too late to conduct due diligence for unidentified and undisclosed assets. Our investigators can locate financial accounts at banks and brokerage firms, and provide information pertaining to life insurance policies. We locate real property and other tangible assets such as vehicles, boats and airplanes. A probate asset search can also reveal ownership interests in business entities, shell corporations, personal living trusts and family trusts.
Our goal is to take the guesswork out of estate administration. Our investigative reports are courtroom-ready and backed by a stack of supporting documents.
Overview of Probate Asset Searches
For probate matters, we conduct asset searches that cover an extensive range of financial accounts and tangible assets. The general areas of our investigations include:
Financial Accounts (Bank, Brokerage, Mutual Fund and Retirement Accounts)
Life Insurance Policies and Annuity Contracts
Real Property and Tangible Assets (Motor Vehicles, Aircraft, Boats)
Business Interests (Including Private Companies, Shell Corporations, and Special-Purpose LLCs)
Our investigators have successfully located more than $300 million in assets for clients.
All searches are conducted in compliance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) and Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) financial privacy laws.
Finding Financial Accounts
We use reliable methods and effective resources for identifying active bank, investment and brokerage accounts.
For individuals who are recently deceased, the available information generally includes the name and address of financial institutions where active accounts are maintained, as well as approximate balance of bank accounts and/or market value of investment portfolios.
The relative transparency of personal accounts begins to decrease after a person is deceased and certain information becomes progressively more difficult to obtain through investigative methods as more time passes. The exact timeframe in which dormant accounts “go dark” depends on the financial institution, but after twelve months it may not be possible to obtain account balance information, for example, without a subpoena or formal request from the executor.
In such instances, once we have successfully identified banks and brokerage houses where the decedent held accounts, further details (e.g., account type, status and current balance) should be readily available to the executor or personal representative of the estate, upon direct inquiry with the financial institution(s).
Search for Life Insurance and Annuities
We have the ability to identify applications for individual life insurance that may have been issued by some 450 life insurance companies operating in the U.S. and Canada. Our sources have access to over 180 million records dating back to 1996. So, if a life insurance policy was applied for during the past 20 years, we may be able to provide information where an application for insurance was taken. The available details typically do not include the amount of coverage or the current status of the policy; that information would need to be obtained by the executor or beneficiary directly from the insurer once it has been identified.
We also facilitate additional searches for life insurance coverage and annuity contracts through insurance industry associations and clearinghouses, in coordination with beneficiaries and representatives of the decedent's estate.
Investigation of Probate Disputes
In certain cases, heirs may have reason to believe the executor has breached his fiduciary duty to the estate by making decisions and distributing assets in a manner that does not comply with the wishes of the deceased. Executors or family members may also be suspected of concealing or hiding assets. These concerns exacerbate the anxiety, frustration, and vulnerability that comes from losing a loved one – and can cause serious division and dissension in grieving families.
For heirs and beneficiaries, we conduct diligent fact-finding to determine if suspicious transfers have been made from an estate. We can also conduct investigations of executors and estate representatives, to determine if they benefitted personally after gaining access to the decedent’s assets and accounts.
In probate and estate matters, not all fraudulent transfers are made posthumously. They can also occur prior to death, during periods in which a person was mentally or physically incapacitated. Individuals who suffer from end-of-life dementia or Alzheimer’s disease are particularly susceptible to financial exploitation, elder abuse and undue influence. Our comprehensive asset searches typically include details on all transfers of tangible assets, such as real property, within the past five years. The scope and timeframe of a search for suspect transfers can be expanded upon request.
Case Study: Misappropriation of Estate Assets
An elderly woman in Chicago told her children she had $10 million in investments, but after she died, the executor of her estate prepared an inventory itemizing less than $1 million in total holdings. Her family requested a comprehensive asset search to confirm, identify, and trace the missing assets.
Our investigators determined the executor had drained the Estate and used the funds to acquire multiple condominiums – purchased in cash – in Florida.
Diligent efforts to locate every beneficiary and heir must be undertaken during probate of a decedent's estate, prior to the distribution of assets. We assist legal, private and banking clients in locating heirs and satisfying this responsibility.
In many cases, the missing heirs are named in the will and simply need to be located. Frequently, these are straightforward cases that can be resolved within a few hours of research and investigation.
We provide confirmed current addresses and contact details for missing heirs – reliable information that has been verified by multiple sources and methods, including direct interviews.
We also obtain evidence of their identity and relationship to the decedent.
Our investigators have successfully located thousands of individuals in all 50 states and internationally.
For intestate matters without a will, executors and court-appointed administrators often face the challenge of compiling a list of lineal descendants with scant information on the decedent’s personal or family history.
Heir searches for intestate matters may require comprehensive research of public records and genealogical sources, including birth, death, marriage, adoption and custody records.
Intestate matters may be further complicated by competing and contradictory claims. Investigative interviews and forensic DNA testing of potential family members may be necessary under some circumstances.
Occasionally, beneficiaries are estranged family members who do not wish to be reunited with the families they left behind. Even after an absence of several decades, long-standing conflicts and resentments can complicate resolution of estate finances. Our investigators are experienced in dealing with sensitive family matters and aim to assist all parties in reaching an amicable, positive resolution.
At Hudson Intelligence, heir searches are conducted by professional investigators in an unbiased manner with no preconceived or preferential outcome other than a full determination of relevant facts, summarized in a clear and accurate report.
Locate Unclaimed and Abandoned Accounts
If multiple years have passed since the individual’s death, we recommend conducting a nationwide search of unclaimed property programs. Unclaimed property (also referred to as 'abandoned' property) are accounts held by financial institutions, insurance carriers, and other companies that have had no activity or owner contact in at least a year. Common forms of unclaimed property include savings and checking accounts, stocks and bonds, uncashed dividends, trust distributions, life insurance policies, annuities, pensions, certificates of deposit, and safe deposit boxes.
Several organizations maintain online directories that can be searched without charge, including the Veterans Administration, National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., and the National Credit Union Administration.
The amount of time after which an account is considered “abandoned” or “unclaimed” varies by state, but is typically five years. Before an account can be considered abandoned, the financial institution must make a diligent effort to locate the account owner. If unsuccessful, then the state (as custodian for the original owner and his/her heirs) assumes ownership of the abandoned account through a process called “escheatment.” Claims for release of the funds can be submitted to the state treasury or other appropriate agency by heirs, beneficiaries and executors after an unclaimed account has been identified.
Consult an Investigator
If you would like to discuss an asset search for a probate or estate matter, please complete the form below. You can also reach us at 800-580-8755.