When a person dies, he usually includes the name of an executor in a will or trust. Part of the executor's duties is to close the estate of the deceased person by paying off debts to creditors, mortgage notes and taxes. Once debt is settled and all assets are claimed, the estate is considered closed and no more claims can be made. Occasionally, you may see a property that appears abandoned. You can check local records to find out whether an estate is open or closed.
Visit the property you believe is unclaimed or abandoned by the estate owners. Write down the street address.
Look up the tax records for the home by visiting the website of the tax assessor in the county where the home is located. If the tax assessor's office in that county does not have a website, you must visit the county tax assessor's office in person to review property tax information.
Obtain the name of the property owner from the tax records. If the estate is still open, the homeowner's name will match the name on the estate filing in the county clerk's office. Visit the county clerk's office to compare information.
Request a copy of the estate filing from the county clerk. Estates are set up as legal entities and filings are usually publicly noticed. The clerk may ask your relationship to the person you are investigating, but this does not mean he or she will forbid you from viewing the documents. Clerks often keep records of everyone who requests documents for filing purposes.
Compare the name on the estate with the name from the real estate tax records. If the names match, the estate is more than likely still open. Request a copy of the closed estate filing for the individual to confirm your findings. Unless you are willing to hire an attorney to investigate, it is safe to assume that if the home is still in the decedent's name then the estate is not closed. If you do not find an estate filing for the name listed, review changes of ownership in the property tax records.
Research other names on the property ownership list. Once the property has changed hands, the estate is likely closed.
- "Estate and Trust Administration"; Margaret Atkins Munro; 2008