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lostsister

What can I do to establish a claim to an inheritance?

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I found out yesterday that my sister (1/2 sister, fathers 1st marriage) has passed away. A genealogy company contacted me to see if I was a relation, and informed me of her passing roughly 2 months ago. They told me that she did not have a will.

I know that she wasn't married and has never had children. The person did mention that he had also found a couple distant cousins on her mothers side a long with myself, brother and sister.

We have been estranged from her for many years, but not for our lack of trying. It's very sad to know that we will never have an answer to that question. I know this statement doesn't really matter, but I needed to say it.

Knowing my sister for the many years she was an active participant in the family, I find it very strange that she would not have left a will, or at least someone to handle her estate should anything happen. She was a very bright successful women and I'm sure she has a rather sizable estate that needs to be handled.

Since finding out this terribly sad news, I have tried desperately to find out any information about the situation. The person I spoke to could not provide me any information about the circumstances of her passing. I have searched obits in both areas where she had lived and have found that she was residing in Arizona and owned a home, but have not found anything about her passing. Their are no obits to speak of in either Arizona or Chicago. I don't even know if someone has handled her burial or cremation!

I do admit that finding out that myself and my siblings are set to possibly inherit and benefit from her estate, I would trade it all to be able to see her and have answers to so many questions because we loved her very much. But after doing a bit of research, and really not wanting to sound greedy, I don't see why I should sign with this other party in order to deal with this matter.

If I go with this company, I will be allowing them to take 1/3 of the inheritance for payment of their services, and another 1/3 to a lawyer they would use to bring our information before the court to show our rights to her estate.

After my long and rambling post, bottom line is how do I go about not using this company?

What would I need to have to prove my relation to her (I have my fathers birth and death certificates)?

Do I contact a lawyer in the state she was residing at the time of her death, or can I use a lawyer in my home state of Florida?

Is there a time limit on getting this done?

Being that I can't even find any evidence of her passing, who can I contact who could legally give me information of her death?

I don't know If she been buried/cremated, or our her remains still waiting to be claimed. What do I do if this is the case?

I welcome any and all helpful comments on this matter and my sister, brother & I are willing to do whatever it takes to handle this issue. Most importantly, making sure, if the situation is that she has not been claimed or had burial/cremation plans, lay her to rest respectfully. She had her reasons for breaking contact with us. I don't know why, but it's the past. She is my sister, I will always love her and I want to do right by her even in death. Please help.

Again, I do apologize for the long post. I have never been able to tell a short story.... Or so I've been told.

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Yes, I have all of the information that you spoke of. Thank you for replying. Sorry for my late response, I was at work late. I can tell you that she was in Maricopa county, Arizona in Cave Creek. But... I don't know if she passed there or was she traveling, or visiting her home state of Illinois.

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Start with a name search of the Maricopa County Superior Court probate cases. Click on Probate Court Cases at:

 

http://www.superiorcourt.maricopa.gov/docket/index.asp

 

That will tell you if a probate case was opened. If it was you can arrange to pay a copying fee and have the case file sent to you.

 

Even if she died elsewhere, probate would have to occur where her property is located.

 

Then go to http://www.zillow.com/ and put in her address. It'll give you an approximate current market value of her home.

 

Then go to http://recorder.maricopa.gov/recdocdata/ put in her name and search for her deed and mortgage documents.

 

Those last two will give you a rough idea if her house has any appreciable equity in it.

 

Rule of thumb: People with little or no equity in their homes generally don't have much of an estate so it might not be worth spending thousands, or tens of thousands, on a probate lawyer to go after an inheritance that might not exist.

 

Come back and post the results.

 

Oh, another thing you have to consider. If you are not blood related to your step-sister any other natural siblings would have dibs on her estate and you wouldn't be in line for anything.

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Thank you so much! I will check out what you've recommended. I am her direct descendant along with my brother and other sister. We all have the same father, just different mother. She was the only child of my fathers 1st marriage. I have already spoken with my siblings and we are all in agreement to pursue this together with our own legal representative instead of using this company.

That was another question I was going to ask... According to the person who contacted me, he said he had found through genealogy a couple distant cousins on her mothers side. I was wondering if the direct descendants superseded all others? I would think.. 1. Spouse 2. Children (if any) 3. Mother/Father 4. Sister/brother before aunts, uncles, cousins etc. As I stated earlier, she was not married and didn't have children. Not to sound ungrateful or smug, but I don't see where a cousin thrice removed (if that's the case) would have any claim over a direct descendant. What if they are just some crazy crack head? Sorry for the expression, but it is a valid thought.

Getting the ball rolling on the probate is, I presume, "time sensitive" but my first line of business is to find her and make sure she is taken care of. I don't know if she had pre-arrangements or not, or if there was anybody to see them carried out. Being that she didn't have the foresight to have a will, I'm doubting she may have made arrangements. This is way outside her character... So I am completely baffled. My biggest fear is that she has not been "claimed" and no arrangements have been made.

Do you have any good ideas as to how I go about finding her?

I have checked for obits/notices in all the papers in her area of Az. and Chicago and found nothing. I just finished going through every single Funeral home obituary list within a 100 mile radius of Cave Creek for the past 6 months and there is nothing. Next stop, Chicago area funeral homes.

I will start my search of what you have suggested tomorrow when I get home from work. I probably won't be back here except to check for any responses until late tomorrow night or Monday, but I will defiantly let you know what I find. Thank you!

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.

That was another question I was going to ask... According to the person who contacted me, he said he had found through genealogy a couple distant cousins on her mothers side. I was wondering if the direct descendants superseded all others?

 

Check out Arizona's statute on intestate succession. Chapter 2 at:

 

http://www.azleg.state.az.us/ArizonaRevisedStatutes.asp?Title=14

 

 

Do you have any good ideas as to how I go about finding her?

 

 

Try the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's office:

 

http://www.maricopa.gov/Medex/

 

If she died without any relatives in attendance she might have ended up their first and then sent to a funeral home or buried by the county. Either way, there ought to be a record there of her disposition if she died in Arizona.

 

If she died elsewhere, you can contact a medical examiner's officer in whatever county you think she might have died in.

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Explorer13: You're absolutely right with both questions and possible solution. but as I have previously stated, there is nothing...so far.

Adjusterjack: I'm going to call the medical examiner Monday. Checked the probate... There isn't one, and as for the deed and mortgage documents, nothing came up either. I see her information on Zillow and it says she's the owner of the home at that address and that it's worth $586,901. I wrote down the parcel #, and any other information on that particular property that may be useful.

This is so weird it's aggravating. It shouldn't be this difficult to find a family member unless they are in witness protection. I find her name, address, multiple phone numbers but I can't find her.

I'll check the new information you suggested when I get home from work. Need to clear my mind. Thank you for your help

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s for the deed and mortgage documents, nothing came up either. I see her information on Zillow and it says she's the owner of the home at that address and that it's worth $586,901. I wrote down the parcel #, and any other information on that particular property that may be useful.

 

 

You may have made errors in your search parameters if you came up empty at the Recorder's website. Any property in the county will have something recorded about it.

 

Try the Maricopa County Assessor's website:

 

http://mcassessor.maricopa.gov/

 

Click on "searching options" first and learn how to put in the search parameters.

 

When you find the property record click on "details" and scroll down until you see the deed number. The number should be a blue link that will take you to the Recorder's record for that property.

 

If it doesn't it might be that the record is too old to be on the computers. I think the county started computerizing records some time in the 1990s.

 

Arizona's unclaimed property website is:

 

http://www.azunclaimed.gov/owners/SearchForProperty.html

 

There is a link there for a national search.

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So sorry that you had to find out about the passing or your relative this way.

Only after you have determined what state the death occurred in will you be able to get a better idea of whether or not your relationship to the decedent will be legally valid or not--some states allow stepchildren to inherit and other states do not. The genealogy company staff may or may not be aware of what the law is in regard to who can inherit, and many times I have found they do not understand the law enough to interpret it correctly--they may not be able to give you a definitive answer as to whether you have a legal right for a portion of this estate, this matter is important enough that errors should not be made and misleading information should not be given.

It is not unusual for persons of means to die without a will--it happens all of the time because people forget or don't want to actually face the reality of their mortality.

If all of her assets were put into a trust, then there would be no need for probate to be filed. Ask your attorney if there is a way to have a financial background check done to see where she did her banking and then see how her checking accounts were titled and check with the bank trust department to see if perhaps her bank is her trustee. If a trust exists and the funds that the genealogy company found are a separate asset outside of the trust that the trust was not aware of, then it is possible that you or your attorneys can get an intestate probate opened up just for the purposes of handling this asset and distributing it to all valid legal heirs.

Do an online search using the name of the genealogy company that contacted you (and or check with the Better Business Bureau website for your state), just to get some idea of this company's general reputation to determine if they are reputable or not.

I applaud the work that the genealogy research firms and other heir hunting firms do, because they devote many hours of research time in order to be able to inform potential relatives/beneficiaries of funds that are not generally able to be discovered by the general public. Many firms do get their information from probate files at county courthouses, but sometimes funds from insurance companies, stock firms, and other sources are reported to the state unclaimed property sites but because of the state site's staff's delay in updating the information to the state databases, the funds are not immediately searchable or discoverable by anyone searching the state website.

That being said, you do NOT need to automatically accept the terms that they present in the contract/fee agreement they ask you to sign. Be smart enough to negotiate with them by telling them you are willing to pay only a limit of 1/5th (instead of 1/3rd)--the genealogy firm does not get paid anything if you don't sign the agreement and hopefully they would be willing to agree to 1/5th instead of getting nothing at all. You as a potential beneficiary should not be asked to pay a separate fee to them for "an attorney to present the matter before probate court". It is the administrator of the estate who will be presenting this matter before the court, and if any attorney fees are applicable, they will be deducted from the estate assets before distribution is made to the beneficiaries.

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Ok... First off, THANK YOU all of you for the information and direction. I was able to find the information I needed at the Assessors office and Recorders office. So that is done. I still have had no luck finding her. Going to be calling the medical examiners office in Maricopa county, Az. and Will county, Il. I noticed on the document that this home was listed as non-primary residence since 2014, which leads me to think she may have been back in the Chicago area. Also, I'm going to be searching for a probate/estate lawyer and see what can be done.

The information I got from the Arizona statues was also valuable. Answered some important questions there, so I feel more comfortable pursuing this issue along with my other siblings, and establishing a lawyer ourselves to handle this matter. I just need to find her whereabouts first. I'll post later on today and let you all know if I've been able to make any progress in the search for her.

I appreciate the genealogy company's work, and did verify they are legit with an A+ rating with the BBB. If not for them, we wouldn't have known about her passing. That in itself is incredibly sad. Now I'm just trying to deal with the emotions of the situation. It just adds more questions to the ones I've already had for years that I'll never have answers too.

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 I noticed on the document that this home was listed as non-primary residence since 2014, which leads me to think she may have been back in the Chicago area. Also, I'm going to be searching for a probate/estate lawyer and see what can be done.

 

 

If the property was not her primary residence in AZ, the data should have shown her mailing address elsewhere.

 

You can also check the Maricopa County tax website to see where the property tax bills were sent and when the taxes were paid:

 

http://treasurer.maricopa.gov/

 

If she died in Illinois a primary probate would have to be done in Illinois and an ancillary probate in AZ for the AZ property.

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If she died in Illinois a primary probate would have to be done in Illinois and an ancillary probate in AZ for the AZ property

 

 

I suspect that you are right in this case, AJ.  But be careful.  Determining domicile is more complicated than just the place of death.

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Her tax info address is in Illinois. Called the ME in Will County & Cook county, neither have record of an issued death certificate. I'm getting ready to call Springfield vital statistics office. Only they can see if there has been a death certificate anywhere in the state. My brother is currently dealing with Maricopa county..... Just waiting to hear back from him.

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Such a frustrating day! Haven't heard back from the Marshall in Maricopa. Keeping my fingers crossed for tomorrow. Same goes for the office of vital statistics in Springfield. Struck out in Will & Cook counties..... I got in touch with vital statistics in Arizona. All I can say is, is it that hard to say yes or no? I know they have a system for going about getting a death certificate, and I don't mind spending the money or time to do it, but what I do mind is that I have to do the procedure in order to find out "IF" a death certificate has been issued. And it can take up to 2 weeks to get a reply. I don't see where it is such a terrible thing to tell me whether or not they see one on file. They don't have to give me any particulars..... "Sigh"... Just feeling defeated. I'll get over it, and I'll do what has to be done according to procedure. Guess I just had my hopes up a bit to high.

So, what I do have is all the other information everyone has directed me to, and I'm so grateful for that. There aren't any opened probate cases in either state, so I guess that's a good thing. Just a couple more question before I pack it in for the night...

Do I have to have a death certificate in order to start discussions with a lawyer?

If I don't find a death certificate in either state, what should I do?

Who should I contact for help?

Goodnight all and thank you for all your help. I'll check back in the morning.

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 I got in touch with vital statistics in Arizona. All I can say is, is it that hard to say yes or no? I know they have a system for going about getting a death certificate, and I don't mind spending the money or time to do it, but what I do mind is that I have to do the procedure in order to find out "IF" a death certificate has been issued. And it can take up to 2 weeks to get a reply. I don't see where it is such a terrible thing to tell me whether or not they see one on file. They don't have to give me any particulars..... "Sigh"...

 

Yeah, that's AZ Vital Stats for you. They won't tell you squat without the "procedure." I used to deal with that all the time in my work.

 

Do I have to have a death certificate in order to start discussions with a lawyer?

 

 

No.

 

In fact, a lawyer might have other avenues of approach that neither you nor I have thought of.

 

 

If I don't find a death certificate in either state, what should I do?

 

 

Might be worth hiring a private investigator in either or both states. Certainly less costly than paying 2/3 to the genealogy company.

 

But talk to a lawyer first. There may be other ways. A lawyer might have a paid subscription service that can do comprehensive multi-state searches.

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Did this lady have a place of employment that you could contact or was she retired?

 

You don't know names of any friends she had or what church she may have attended or her religion?

 

How about doing a search for her on a search engine, using just her first and last name in beginning and ending quotation marks followed by obituary, (for example, "Jane Doe" and "obituary" and "Illinois" or "Jane Doe" and "obituary" and "Arizona")?

 

Or writing a letter to one or more of her neighbors to see if they know anything?

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Before I start, I'm going to point out that I haven't read through this entire thread yet. 

 

 

I know that she wasn't married and has never had children. The person did mention that he had also found a couple distant cousins on her mothers side a long with myself, brother and sister.
We have been estranged from her for many years, but not for our lack of trying. It's very sad to know that we will never have an answer to that question.

 

What question?  And, if you've "been estranged from her for many years," how could you possibly "know that she wasn't married and . . . never had children"? 

 

 

I find it very strange that she would not have left a will, or at least someone to handle her estate should anything happen. She was a very bright successful women and I'm sure she has a rather sizable estate that needs to be handled.

 

Which begs the question:  at whose behest did this "genealogy company" contact you? 

 

 

After my long and rambling post, bottom line is how do I go about not using this company?

 

Ummm...you call the person who called you and say, "thanks, but no thanks." 

 

 

What would I need to have to prove my relation to her (I have my fathers birth and death certificates)?

 

Not entirely possible to say without context.  However, if you seek to administer the estate, unless someone contests that you are her sister, it's not likley you'll have to prove your relationship to anyone. 

 

 

Do I contact a lawyer in the state she was residing at the time of her death, or can I use a lawyer in my home state of Florida?

 

You'll need a lawyer in the state where she lived to assist you with administering the estate. 

 

 

Being that I can't even find any evidence of her passing, who can I contact who could legally give me information of her death?

 

Depends on what information you want, but the local coroner probably would be a good place to start.

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According to the person who contacted me, he said he had found through genealogy a couple distant cousins on her mothers side. I was wondering if the direct descendants superseded all others? I would think.. 1. Spouse 2. Children (if any) 3. Mother/Father 4. Sister/brother before aunts, uncles, cousins etc. As I stated earlier, she was not married and didn't have children.

 

Under Arizona law, if a person dies without a will and without a surviving spouse or descendants, then the estate goes to the parents.  If neither parent survives the deceased, then sbilings are next in line (and cousins of any degree will get nothing).

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Before I start, I'm going to point out that I haven't read through this entire thread yet.

What question? And, if you've "been estranged from her for many years," how could you possibly "know that she wasn't married and . . . never had children"?

Which begs the question: at whose behest did this "genealogy company" contact you?

Ummm...you call the person who called you and say, "thanks, but no thanks."

Not entirely possible to say without context. However, if you seek to administer the estate, unless someone contests that you are her sister, it's not likley you'll have to prove your relationship to anyone.

You'll need a lawyer in the state where she lived to assist you with administering the estate.

Depends on what information you want, but the local coroner probably would be a good place to start.

Finally got some answers this morning. She was on hospice care when she passed in Arizona. I'm currently compiling all the information and application that Arizona requires for a copy of her death certificate. I'm still not sure if she had pre-arrangements, but I guess I won't know that until I've established my relationship to her to legally in order to find out. Pg1067

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Under Arizona law, if a person dies without a will and without a surviving spouse or descendants, then the estate goes to the parents.  If neither parent survives the deceased, then sbilings are next in line (and cousins of any degree will get nothing).

 

I know you said that you did not read all the posts.  From the very sketchy info, it appears that the deceased's domicile was probably in Illinois.

 

 

lostsister -

 

Check Illinois unclaimed property also.

 

https://icash.illinois.gov/

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Finally got some answers this morning. She was on hospice care when she passed in Arizona. I'm currently compiling all the information and application that Arizona requires for a copy of her death certificate. I'm still not sure if she had pre-arrangements, but I guess I won't know that until I've established my relationship to her to legally in order to find out.

Pg1067: I've done multiple searches, free and paid, there is no mention of spouse or children. Not to mention, last I saw her she was 45, hadn't had children and was single.

As to "who or whom" initiated this company to contact me.... I have no idea. According to their website, they acquire information through multiple sources, so I'm assuming they see her estate as something that they would like to help out with and profit from. They are Kemp & Associates. I have not totally committed to not using their services, I just think that exploring other options first would be a logical thing to do.

The question I have now is...If her death was in Arizona, her tax information for the property in Arizona lists an address in Illinois which leads me to believe there are assets in Illinois also...which state do I establish an attorney in?

Hats off to anyone who practices law because just this matter alone boggles my mind!

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I know you said that you did not read all the posts.  From the very sketchy info, it appears that the deceased's domicile was probably in Illinois.

 

Intestate succession in IL works roughly the same in AZ under these circumstances.

 

 

 

As to "who or whom" initiated this company to contact me.... I have no idea.

 

Why not ask?

 

 

 

The question I have now is...If her death was in Arizona, her tax information for the property in Arizona lists an address in Illinois which leads me to believe there are assets in Illinois also...which state do I establish an attorney in?

 

If she lived in IL, call someone there and let that person know that she also had property in AZ.  You may need to retain someone in both states, but start with the state where she lived.

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