Thursday, January 31, 2013

Missing Assets or Documents

I periodically get phone calls from persons looking for a deceased relative’s will.  Sometimes they are calling because they found my name in their loved one’s papers.  Sometimes they are just calling attorneys in the neighborhood.  If I tell them that I do not have the will, they will ask if there is some central place that they can call or check.  Unfortunately, the answer is, “No.” 

The District Court in a County that the person resided (now or in the past) will hold people’s wills for the person.  There is a modest one time fee for this.  (Ramsey and Hennepin County’s charge $27).  The court does check to see if it has a will or a more recent will before opening a probate but that is not the same as a central place.  If someone deposited a will in Hennepin County District Court but died living in Ramsey County, the estate would probably be probated in Ramsey County and the Ramsey County Court would not find the Hennepin County will automatically.  Furthermore, there is no legal requirement that wills be deposited with the court and so few people actually do.

Nor is there any central place to find assets like insurance policies or bank accounts.  The best way to search for such assets is to look for statements or bills in the decedent’s papers.  Last year’s tax returns can also provide clues in the form of 1099s or listed income.

Once five years have passed, a bank, stock brokerage firm or company located in Minnesota will send any money for which they cannot find the owner to the State of Minnesota.  This is called “escheating”.  However, the money is not claimed by the State.  It is just held by the State.  This money can be claimed by the owner or the owner’s heirs.  The State of Minnesota site on which to search for escheated assets and to file a claim is .  In other states search “unclaimed property in (state’s name).”  That should get you to the right site.

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