What is an Unclaimed Inheritance?

R. Kimball
R. Kimball
Businessman with a briefcase
Businessman with a briefcase

An unclaimed inheritance is an amount that was bequeathed to a person or persons but for some reason was not distributed as part of the estate. The asset in question usually was not included as part of the estate when it went through probate and distribution. An asset may have been included within an estate, but the heir entitled to the distribution was not found. In these circumstances, a specific government treasury government holds onto the asset until it is properly claimed.

It may be difficult to find an unclaimed inheritance. There are many databases that track unclaimed assets belonging to a deceased party. Each database includes different types of assets or information for a variety of jurisdictions. It is the responsibility of the person searching for an unclaimed inheritance to find such an asset.

Once an unclaimed asset is found, the party claiming such an inheritance must go through the proper procedures in the given jurisdiction to request a distribution of the unclaimed inheritance. Each jurisdiction’s procedures are different. In some jurisdictions, the heir must re-open the estate in order to have an additional distribution completed and must show that he or she is entitled to the unclaimed inheritance. Following the procedures accurately is extremely important if one hopes to have an unclaimed asset distributed in a timely manner.

Some unclaimed inheritance assets will not show in the public records for some time, as the broker that was holding the assets may not release them to the public treasury for several years after the original owner dies. Such companies have policies for how these assets are to be distributed to an estate. If the original estate does not claim the assets, then they are transferred to the public treasury for safekeeping until the heirs can be located. The public treasury is not responsible for locating the heirs; it only has to safeguard the assets.

Most unclaimed inheritance databases are searched based upon the name of the deceased party. One must know that there was a death and that one stands to inherit something from the deceased party in order to begin a search for an unclaimed inheritance. Few, if any, of these databases allow an heir to search using his or her own name to determine if any outstanding inheritance is included within the database.

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