Finding Hidden Assets
Where should you look for money that you may not have known you had? How can you get that money?
Look to the afterlife. More specifically, a deceased relative. Why? Thousands of people die everyday with assets their families never knew they had. We're talking everything from bank accounts, pensions, insurance policies, property (vehicles, real estate), retirement plans, brokerage accounts, safe-deposit boxes, even companies that the deceased may have owned or controlled.
The best news is that 95% of these unclaimed assets have no statute of limitations. So, if you think you might be an heir of some dearly departed relative (or someone else), here's how to search for those hidden assets.
Many people will things to other people who don't even know about it. Just as often, those unknowing people die before the estate can track them down. But the heirs of the unknowing people may have a claim against the original estate. On the other hand, about 60% of people pass on leaving no will and not always a clear record of their assets.
Start your search
a.. Check probate records - these are public in all states. Get a list of the deceased person's estate inventory. This might list assets still available.
b.. Establish heirship - You'll need certified records (birth and death certificates, etc.) that establish your link to the deceased. This is the only way you will gain access to bank accounts and other financial data. This will also be necessary to make a claim against the estate.
Once you establish heirship:
a.. Find the relative's social security number - it's always on the death certificate and usually the driver's license. It's the key to locating almost all assets because the IRS requires banks and other institutions to list it on all accounts.
b.. Look through bank records - once you establish heirship, the bank will let you go through the deceased's records. Cancelled checks can give you links to follow because they tell you who the deceased made payments to, such as insurance companies, brokerage accounts, real estate management companies, etc.
c.. Check with the state's Secretary of State to determine if the deceased controlled a company that might have assets. Get copies of personal or corporate income tax returns, which should also list assets.
d.. Contact the relative's past employers, professional organizations, labor unions - there might have been a life insurance policy. And don't forget the Veterans Administration if the deceased was in the military.
e.. Check the state's unclaimed property office - with an uncontested claim, assets could be turned over to you in 30 to 45 days.
You might have to go to probate court where the deceased lived to claim other property. Many court clerks will assist in completing necessary forms so an attorney won't be necessary. On larger, more complex estates, find a good estate attorney. It may very well be worth the 10% fee.