Only four in 10 U.S. adults have a will – less than half the population.* In the absence of a will, the court must figure out how to distribute the deceased’s assets. This process is called probate. In some estates there may be no known heirs, or there may be missing heirs whose names are known but their whereabouts are not.
That is where the American Research Bureau comes in. Without us, many lawful heirs would be omitted and deprived of their legal rights to obtain their fair share of the estate assets.
While most people die in the company of family or friends, many live in social isolation, have no close family members, or have lost touch with their relatives. Throughout the years, many families have been separated by geography, immigration, war, divorce, or have simply drifted apart. Surprisingly, many people procrastinate or are reluctant to draft a proper will. In these situations, unclaimed estates may be opened by individuals who have limited knowledge of the decedents extended family and lack the expertise and skills necessary to locate the next of kin. Our team of dedicated professionals – researchers, attorneys and support staff – strives to provide consistent, accurate information connecting heirs to their lawful inheritance.
We comb genealogical records to identify those who would have a traceable relationship to a decedent; this is the most efficient and effective method for proving a client is a lawful heir to a probated estate. Our process is exhaustive, combining skillful research methods, knowledge of estate law, and classic investigative techniques to build a valid case for each deserving heir.
ARB’s ultimate contribution to our clients can be as much about re-connecting to long-lost or never-known family, as it is about money.
American Research Bureau (ARB) have been successfully locating next of kin and tracing missing or unknown heirs since 1935. We work with heirs and beneficiaries to prove and establish their right to unclaimed estate assets. Before we contact anyone, extensive research is conducted to determine the relationship to the decedent and that the person(s) identified is in fact a legitimate heir. Those we identify are often either unaware of their relationship to the decedent, or have only a vague recollection of a distant relative.
Inheritance laws vary enormously from one country to another, and in the United States, they also differ from state to state. By law, all reasonable steps must be taken by the estate trustee to find and locate all missing or unknown heirs before estate assets can be distributed. If an heir or beneficiary misses out on an inheritance because inadequate measures were made to identify and locate them, the estate trustee is subject to personal liability. Therefore, the expertise of a reputable probate research firm to identify and locate potential heirs is often required.
Our comprehensive service includes the following features:
- Identification of unclaimed estates with no next of kin
- Identifying and locating all potential heirs-at-law
- Verify and authenticate the heirs relationship to the decedent
- Search all available records and repositories
- Collect and present proof of heirship
- Obtain and translate foreign documents
- Prepare Affidavits of Due Diligence for court purposes
- Provide expert testimony in court proceedings
- Prepare reports, charts, and obtain documentation
- Provide support and updates
- Advance payment of all costs and expenses
- Correspondence forwarding service
- Timely distribution of estate assets
The probate process can be complicated, expensive, and time-consuming. We make the entire process risk-free by underwriting the entire cost on a “success or no cost” basis. Once we have undertaken the research, we typically enter into a reasonable contingency fee arrangement with each individual beneficiary we locate. This means that in the event that no distribution occurs, there is no financial obligation to ARB.
It is on a foundation of best-in-class research capability, and a commitment to honesty, transparency, and professionalism, that we continually provide top-tier service for clients worldwide.
Our experience, starting with the research phase that goes into each case through to the decision making that takes place, gives us the expertise to provide the best possible service and recovery for our clients.
* 2018 Caring.com / Princeton Survey Research Associates International https://www.caring.com/articles/wills-survey-2017