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Executors can use these steps to locate heirs

Every California family has a history. Many have members who are estranged, moved away without telling anyone or are simply difficult to reach. When another member of the family passes away, it is the executor's job to locate everyone who qualifies as a legal heir or who is named in the will.

This could be an easy part of the process or a difficult one. In either case, an executor may need some help finding everyone who is legally required to receive notice of the death and probate.

Finding someone is easier than ever before

In the past, it was more of a challenge to find missing heirs. Now, with the internet, it's not as difficult. As the executor, you could use the following methods to locate people you don't already have information for:

  • Social media could be your best friend. Even if you cannot find a particular person just by doing a search, you may find something he or she is friends with who can help you.
  • Search engines such as Bing and Google provide a plethora of information about people. One of them may be the person you are searching for in relation to the probate.
  • You could start your search by gathering as much information as possible about the decedent and the missing heir or heirs. Birth certificates, marriage licenses and other documentation may put you on the right track.
  • If you locate friends or family members of the person you are looking for, you may be able to gather some information on his or her current whereabouts.
  • Public records could prove useful, especially if you know that the other person may have a professional license of some kind such as a doctor, lawyer or accountant.

Any information you have could prove useful when it comes to finding missing heirs. If you manage to get lucky, then you can verify his or her identity and send out the notification. If these relatively simple investigative methods aren't enough, you could turn to someone with experience in this type of search.

A probate attorney will more than likely have resources -- either in-house or from the outside -- when locating all of the legal heirs is not as simple as you would like it to be. Locating heirs is an important part of any California probate, but it should not overshadow your other responsibilities. Fortunately, you do not have to go through this process alone.

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