Frequently Asked Questions

Below are frequently asked questions to educate you on the process and help you make an informed decision. Please contact us regarding any other questions you may have.

What does ARB do?

ARB specializes in connecting heirs and beneficiaries to their lawful inheritance. We use skillful genealogical research and proven investigative techniques to locate heirs that are unknown or missing to the court. Without ARB on their side, many lawful heirs would be overlooked and ultimately deprived of their lawful inheritance.

Why did ARB contact me?

We contacted you because we feel you are entitled to inherit.

How did ARB find me?

As a professional genealogical research and licensed private investigation firm, we have access to vast archives containing public records. Those records, along with our genealogical resources, enable us to find individuals at newer, more current points of contact. You can rest assured that your personal information will never be shared with a third party without your permission and that they will only ever be used in the context of the research we are conducting.

How can I be sure this is legitimate?

American Research Bureau (ARB) is an accredited business with an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, as well as an active member with the Los Angeles and Salt Lake Chambers of Commerce. We have been operating since 1935 and have successfully connected thousands of heirs with their lawful inheritance. Please refer to the testimonials section of our website or contact one of the many attorneys we work with to learn more.

Why should I hire ARB to prove my inheritance?

When ARB takes on your case, all the investigative research and related work is completed for you, guaranteeing accuracy, efficiency and a lack of wasted time, effort and money. That is exactly why ARB is recommended by many of the top Probate & Estate Planning attorneys. Our fees are payable only on a successful outcome when the estate distributes. If there is no recovery, there is absolutely no financial obligation to compensate us anything. The risk is entirely ours.

Our best-in-class research team – employing proprietary data gathering techniques and technologies – provide ARB clients with a unique capacity for success. Research is often complex, time-consuming, and expensive because everything has to be documented and each heir has to prove not only his/her own claim, but also the claims of all other potential heirs.

Along with successfully proving your claim, we offer:

  • A guarantee that we will be paid only when you receive your inheritance.
  • A guarantee that you cannot inherit a debt.
  • A free family tree chart for every heir who retains our services upon case completion.
  • Experienced staff who are not paid commission according to results or agreements obtained.

We come highly recommended by many of the top Trusts & Estate Planning attorneys in the United States. Our qualified team is supported by an extensive global network and legal support experts who assist in all aspects of investigation and research. The consistent quality of our research, and the comprehensive and extensive documentation assembled for each case, have allowed us to consistently obtain favorable court decisions.

How do you protect my personal information?

The probate process demands a large amount of data to establish heirship for each person. As a result, an heir search company works with a lot of data about you and your family. It is important that they safeguard that data. ARB has a dedicated Information Systems team focused on security and reliability. ARB voluntarily hires an independent SOC audit team annually to check and improve our security and privacy practices. We believe we are the only company in the heir search business to do so. The security of your personal information is very important to us. ARB has never had a data breach and has never been affected by ransomware or viruses. It is safe to work with ARB!

What is the cost of your services?

We make the process risk-free by offering our services on a contingency fee or “success or no cost” basis. This means that in the event that no distribution occurs, you owe nothing to ARB, or to the professionals engaged to perform services on your behalf. The advantages of the contingency fee approach include:

  • No hidden charges or out-of-pocket expenses.
  • No risk of potentially indebting any of the parties involved.
  • The estate does not spend money to conduct difficult or costly heir searches.
  • It creates a higher incentive to complete the research as efficiently, thoroughly, and as quickly as possible.
  • Relatives who knew the deceased do not have to pay for research to locate omitted heirs.
  • It avoids conflicts of interests between an estate administrator’s duty and his/her personal interest.
  • It allows access to justice for those without financial means.
  • If efforts are unsuccessful, there is no charge to the estate. We still perform all the work necessary by providing the Affidavit of Diligent Search, expert testimony, and anything else required to satisfy to the court that a diligent search has been conducted.


How much of my time will this take?

A few signatures and a photocopy or two is usually all that is required of you. ARB will handle records/document retrieval, research, monitoring, and paying attention to all the numerous details necessary to prove your entitlement.

How long does the probate process take?

The probate process is typically long, complex, and unpredictable. While we can’t promise exactly how long it will take to settle your estate, it is our experience that it usually takes between 12 and 36 months for the administrator to complete the probate process and distribute funds to the heirs. Since we are not compensated until the estate distributes, we will do everything possible on our end to expedite your claim.

There are a number of factors that affect the probate process. Here are a few:

  1. The administrator must sell all of the estate property and pay all the estate debts.
  2. The court must schedule hearings to approve and review the steps taken by the administrator.
  3. Complexity of the tax situation (for example: 9-month minimum if federal estate tax return is required).
  4. Disputes between heirs on the validity of a will or how assets should be distributed.
  5. Disputes over external/internal claims on the estate.
  6. Types of assets in the estate (cash only estates are much easier than estates with business or valuables that need to be appraised and sold).
  7. Mandatory creditor claims period (often 90 days).
  8. Efficiency of the personal representative and estate attorney working to close and distribute the estate.

Who is in charge of supervising the probate process?

Although the probate judge oversees every aspect of the process, the personal representative is in charge of all the heavy lifting. In most cases, the personal representative (sometimes called the executor) is named in the decedent’s will. If there is no valid will to name an executor and no one volunteers, the court will appoint someone to take the role. The court typically appoints a person or organization with a large stake in the outcome of probate, such as a surviving spouse, beneficiary, bank, or trust company.

The personal representative performs many important probate duties. In the simplest of terms, the personal representative will:

  1. Identify, collect, and determine the value of the decedent’s assets
  2. Pay off any taxes and outstanding debts
  3. Distribute remaining assets to heirs and beneficiaries

These tasks can be complex, time-consuming, and highly demanding. The personal representative has a legal duty to administer the estate according to state law, and will be held liable to beneficiaries if the estate is managed poorly or dishonestly. Every state in the United States has its own set of intestate succession laws that control the probate courts within its borders. ARB understands these laws and will guide your case through every step of the process.

How is my share of the estate determined?

For intestate matters your share of the estate is determined by the total number of claimants, your relationship to the person who has died, the laws of Descent and Distribution of the state or foreign country where the case is being heard, and the final value of the estate after administration costs. The total amount of your entitlement is calculated shortly before the final distribution occurs.

Why didn’t the estate or public administrator contact me directly?

Many attorneys and public administrators lack the time, resources, and expertise to conduct the necessary research. Locating missing or unknown heirs and proving heirship to the court is extremely complex and time consuming. That’s where ARB comes in. The comprehensiveness of our research enables us to locate those that are not known to the court.  The extensive documentation we assemble for each case allows us to consistently obtain favorable court decisions for our clients.

What happens after I return the agreement?

There is very little required from you beyond authorizing our firm to initiate your claim. Upon receiving your agreement to proceed, we’ll begin the process of establishing your right to inherit.

Once an agreement has been signed and received, our work is just beginning. ARB will then meet with attorneys, compile admissible documentation and evidence for use as court exhibits (certified birth/death/marriage records, full family genealogical charts, declarations, or other items) for a judicial determination of heirship. If necessary, ARB will attend court hearings and provide expert testimony to verify our findings.

ARB will keep you informed as the case progresses until the final accounting is issued. You will then receive a complete accounting and your share of the estate assets. The sooner we receive your agreement back, the sooner we can go to work to obtain your share of the unclaimed assets.

We may need a copy of some key vital records such as a birth certificate or your driver’s license. We will let you know exactly what we need to prove your entitlement to the court. When the court is satisfied that we have sufficiently proved your claim, you will be mailed a check that represents your share of your relative’s estate.

What happens if I do nothing?

In most jurisdictions, state laws mandate that, after a period of time, if you do nothing, the shares of the estate which you may be lawfully entitled to receive, will be turned over to the state as escheated funds, or the unclaimed shares may be distributed to the heirs who are known to the court. There are also statutes of limitation, cut-off dates and strict deadlines. Once deadlines pass or others have made claims, your position may be diminished, or worse yet, lost forever and lawfully irretrievable. So we may be sure your interests are adequately represented and protected, simply return our agreement as soon as possible to avoid any possible roadblocks or delays. The time and legal costs to claim these funds at a later date may be more significant the longer you wait to act.

What happens if other potential heirs do not cooperate?

Your claim is not predicated upon cooperation from other potential heirs. You will be paid your legal percentage of the claim regardless of how other heirs respond.

Does ARB provide expert witness testimony for kinship hearings?

Yes, ARB employs court qualified experts who can provide expert testimony in kinship determination hearings for cases that require further explanation and/or determination of the persons entitled to a share of the estate.


Will ARB share my extended family member’s contact information with me?

Client confidentiality is our highest priority. Due to privacy concerns and client confidentiality regulations, we are unable to share personal information with others without their consent. Upon request, we will forward your contact information onto other members of the family. We will never sell or disclose your personal information to any third party without a court order.



Still have questions?

If your question has not been addressed, please call us or email us.

Phone: 1-800-628-7221