During the past three years we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of locate requests from attorneys representing clients in trust, will, and estate planning matters. There are a few reasons for this occurrence.
First, many clients do not provide sufficient identifying data about the subjects named in their living trust. Even more puzzling is that many attorneys don’t even ask or require the information before finalization of the documents.
Make sure that you provide, at a minimum, the following five items on each subject you name in your trust:
1. Full legal name.
2. Complete home and business addresses.
3. Social Security Number.
4. Date of birth.
5. Home, business, and cell phone numbers.
This situation is also complicated by the fact that statistics from the government on housing, census, and entitlement programs indicate that we are a very mobile society. Often people move out of the country. Even if you know where a person has moved, many countries have no national database to locate the heirs.
Many families have three generations living under one roof. Often they simply move in with friends and relatives – with no record being generated of the move by the government, credit bureaus, or the social security administration. The latter often only has direct deposit information and that data is covered by the Privacy Act, Fair Credit Reporting Act, and many other regulations preventing contacting or locating those subjects.
The good news is that any above-average private investigator should be able to locate someone given the five pieces of information listed above. In fact, the “hit rate” (or the percentage of people being located with that information) should be well over 90%.
It is imperative that you hire an agency like ours that is considered expert in Federal, State, and local courts relative to locating heirs and beneficiaries. This is important in cases where the subject can not be located. In these rare cases, we can sign a declaration under the penalty of perjury and the laws of the state where the trust litigation is being conducted that no further amount of money or time will assist in locating the subject. This often eliminates the need for more costly investigation and assists the attorneys and family in adjudicating the legal matters within the trust or will.
The cost to locate someone is a flat-fee of $350.00. If we can’t find them, they simply won’t be found. We have four offices in Southern California but we locate subjects throughout the United States. To that end, we have a free referral to a highly competent private investigator that can be used by the trust attorney. The attorney can then direct the private investigator to make contact at the address we have provided in our search. Many times the data in our own in-house computer system will contain cell and land-line phone numbers. In those instances, it would simply be a matter of the attorney directly contacting the subject.
Most attorneys like the idea of using a professional to perform the work in a competent and timely matter. The fees are generally taken out of the trust monies and at no cost to the other beneficiaries. There are many sites, including ours at www.martinpi.com and www.888usunite.com, that contain information to locate people at no charge. If you have any questions or wish any matter clarified regarding the location of heirs and beneficiaries, please email or call our toll-free number below.