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How Do You Find Out if You Have an Unclaimed Inheritance from a Will?

written by: •edited by: John Garger•updated: 4/25/2011

Sometimes a distant relative or friend bequests money without notifying the beneficiary. In these cases, a question may arise leaving people wondering how you find an unclaimed inheritance from wills. Learn how to find these assets for free.

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    Unclaimed Assets: What Happens Now?

    Inherited money Consider what might happen while attending a family reunion if a discussion started about a long-lost uncle or aunt who passed away a number of years ago and it turned out they had millions of dollars in assets. Few people know about these assets until the will was probated and word spread. Human nature being what it is means that several of the people in the midst of this discussion are going to be wondering how they might find out if they were named in the will. Finding out how to find unclaimed inheritance from wills becomes something that is crucially important.

    Some of the ways to identify assets in a will largely depend on the amount of time that has passed since the person died. Ironically, locating missing assets is actually easier the more time that passes. The reason for this is that each state has specific rules about unclaimed assets and the length of time that the company must hold those assets.

    An example of this would be a life insurance policy where the primary beneficiary was deceased before the owner of the policy. Cases like this result in the assets going to the estate of the policy owner and becoming part of their estate. This often results in confusion when someone is unaware he/she was named a beneficiary to an estate. When the death was more than 5 years ago, chances are that the assets have reverted to the state unclaimed funds division.

    Each state has different rules when it comes to unclaimed funds, including how much time is required before these funds are turned over. However, these assets always belong to the person who inherited them and they are available from the state. Identifying these funds may be done using the free service provided by National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA). The search is free and most states do not charge an administrative fee to release these funds. In some cases, the assets may not be listed in this database, especially if not much time passed since a will was probated.

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    Inheritances: Finding Unclaimed Assets From Newly Probated Wills

    Unclaimed Property could be a nest egg Finding assets that were left via a will can be rather challenging if the death occurred before the state's unclaimed funds rule came into effect. It is not impossible to find an unclaimed inheritance from wills that are newly probated. Once a will has been probated, the records become public. This means that potential beneficiaries can go to court and read the records to determine if they has assets due to them that are not old enough to be in the database of unclaimed assets. Here are the steps to follow:

    A) Obtain a copy of the death certificate - while this may not be required by the court, it may be helpful to have this document on hand to provide information on the date and location of the death;

    B) Last known address information - the last known address of the decedent will be important to have on hand. This will help determine the courthouse where the probate took place;

    C) Identification - in some cases, the court may require that you show your identification for access to court records. Be prepared.

    It is important for those who believe that they are a beneficiary of an estate of any size that they take the necessary steps to find the assets that are rightfully theirs. While there is no time limit for a beneficiary to claim an inheritance, finding these assets may present some challenges.

    Another important note for all potential beneficiaries: do not pay someone to do an asset search for potential inheritances. Most states require inheritance searchers who are not the beneficiary to have a bond. Most searches and retrievals of unclaimed assets can be done by the rightful owner without a fee or for a very modest processing fee that is paid to the state.

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    Resources

    Sources:

    1. Naupa - What is Naupa? http://www.unclaimed.org/what/
    2. MSNBC - Barber, Tiki; You might be rich! http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/30375542/

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