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Carrying Out Final Wishes

Searching for heirs is an important part of estate administration

The duties of an executor or administrator of an estate are many and varied. The court takes estate administration seriously and assumes that the executor will perform his or her duties with care and diligence. One of the more complicated roles of the executor may be locating heirs. Courts in British Columbia and across Canada expect the person charged with this task to thoroughly explore every avenue.

If the will names clear beneficiaries, it is often easy to locate them. They may be children, siblings or other close family members. However, if there is no estate plan or the named beneficiaries are distant relatives unfamiliar to the executor, the search may be more complex. An estate administrator may begin by asking those close to the deceased if they know the heirs, examining through the personal effects of the deceased and searching online. These steps may be all it takes to locate the heirs.

It is possible that the heirs elude the executor even after utilising these paths. It may be necessary at this point to contact a professional researcher or even a private detective. People in these professions have access to resources the average person may not have. It is important for the administrator to understand that the results of a professional search must be verified by the administrator. In the eyes of the court, any mistakes in the search results become the responsibility of the administrator, not the detective.

Locating heirs in British Columbia and across the country can be challenging, but it is an essential part of representing an estate. It is difficult to predict how much effort the court will deem appropriate before terminating the search, but courts are often reluctant to do so. This is why people appointed to this duty can seek advice and assistance from a lawyer who has provided legal services to families for years. A lawyer can help an administrator with an heir search and any other area of estate administration.

Source: huffingtonpost.ca, "The Process Of Locating The Heirs Of An Estate", Suzana Popovic-Montag and Ian M. Hull, Accessed on Jan. 10, 2017

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