Missing beneficiaries, what do I do?
The starting point is to ensure you have asked all friends and beneficiaries who may have a connection to the missing beneficiary.
If that method has been exhausted, it is recommended to place a statutory advertisement in the law gazette and local paper to where the deceased lived. It gives a beneficiary 2 months to come forward and make a claim on the estate. It could encourage a beneficiary to come forward.
The other common method to trace missing beneficiaries is through engaging a genealogist who will make detailed enquiries such as looking at family trees and historical records. Often such firms work on a fixed fee or contingency basis.
If a beneficiary cannot be found, then personal representatives should do one of the following:
- Take out missing beneficiary insurance
- Obtain indemnities from the known beneficiaries – this is an agreement between the personal representatives and known beneficiaries that they will reimburse the PRs if the missing beneficiary is later traced. It then allows the estate to be distributed.
- The personal representatives could hold back the money that is due to the missing beneficiary in case they come forward in the next 12 months
- Payment to court under section 63 Trustee Act 1925
Personal representatives can be held personally liable to beneficiaries if an estate is not distributed correctly so if there is a missing beneficiary it is advisable that personal representatives take legal advice to ensure they are taking the right steps.