Guns, Gams & Gumshoes

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Answering Writers’ Questions: Finding heirs, expectation of privacy

Posted by Writing PIs on May 16, 2010

Today we’re answering some writers’ questions about finding heirs and expectation of privacy when searching for an adopted child.

Writer’s Question: Maybe this is a question you can answer.  Let’s say a couple are married and the husband makes out a will.  If the wife is aware of how the estate is to be distributed and does not like that an estranged child from the husband’s first marriage is to receive money, could she pretend there is no will?  (Let’s say the child would not know the father died, so doesn’t know he/she inherited anything.)  Or when someone dies, how would it be made known if that person had a will or not?  Attorneys would not automatically be notified if a client died, so therefore would not intervene in the distribution of assets.  Could you be hired to find out if there actually WAS a will?

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: Could the wife pretend there’s no will?  Yes, the wife is welcome to pretend there is no will, however, should one of the heirs find that out, they can enforce the will.  When someone dies, how would it be made known that they had a will?  Generally, they have already informed an attorney or an executor of their estate or their will that they have this will.  Could we, as PIs, be hired to find out if there actually is a will?  Yes.  We’d first check with the county clerk of court where the decedent lived.  Frequently, a will is lodged with the clerk of court.  But, if the will isn’t found there, we’d interview whoever might know who the attorney was that drew that will up, and then we’d contact that attorney.  If that even failed, we’d look for records of trusts in the county clerk and recorder’s office where the decedent last lived.  Frequently trusts are established by the same people who draft wills, and we would then have a good chance of locating that attorney through the trust documents on file with the county clerk and recorder.

Writer’s Question: This is a question about a client hiring you to find a child given up for adoption–if you found the child, would you tell the child that  someone asked to have them tracked down?  Does it depend on the child’s age (very young as opposed to a teenager)?  Or would you have to advise the child’s guardian that someone hired you?  Would the situation be different if it wasn’t a child given up for adoption, but a child who belonged to a family member?  For example,  a sister’s child who remains with the husband’s family after the sister dies and perhaps the husband moves away and loses contact with the sister’s (his wife’s) family.

Guns, Gams, and Gumshoes’s Answer: We cannot talk to children under the age of 18 about adoption issues.  We would speak to the adoptive parent/guardian and they would make the decision whether or not the child would be informed, and if yes, they would do the informing.  The situation wouldn’t be different if it was a family member because the law considers a child who is residing with a relative on a long-term basis the same as a child in foster care or in an adoptive relationship.

Have a great week, Writing PIs

2 Responses to “Answering Writers’ Questions: Finding heirs, expectation of privacy”

  1. Hope Clark said

    Deaths have to be probated, and I believe most counties have a Probate Office. Will or not, the record of the death should be in the county records.

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