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Saturday, August 22, 2009

What to do about a missing beneficiary?

Every now and then the executor of a Will isn't able to find a person who is supposed to inherit money under the Will. The executor knows the beneficiary's name and his or her relation (if any) to the person who died, but simply can't find the beneficiary. What should the executor do?

First of all, read the Will carefully to see whether it says anything about missing beneficairies, such as a gift expiring if the person isn't found after a certain amount of time. This is not a clause that is usually found in Wills, unless the beneficiary's whereabouts were already a mystery while the person who made the Will was still alive.

Before the executor takes any other legal steps, he or she must make reasonable efforts to find the missing beneficiary. These efforts would probably include:
  • contacting the beneficiary's family members
  • checking his or her last known address and talking to neighbours
  • checking with the last known employer
  • if the beneficiary is a unionized tradesman, checking with the union
  • contacting friends and ex spouses
  • asking at places where the beneficiary has been known to have contacts, such as clubs where he or she might have been a member (e.g. Masonic lodge, church, gym)
  • advertising in a newspaper in the area where the beneficiary was last known to live
  • ask through government departments such as Canada Pension Plan or provincial Maintenance Enforcement - they won't give you any information but they might agree to forward a letter for you
  • if all else fails, hire a locating service to find the beneficiary
If the executor wants to move on with the estate and simply can't locate the beneficiary, he or she will have to swear an affidavit that outlines in detail all of the efforts made to find the person. The affidavit is filed at the Court. This alerts the Court to the fact that the beneficiary is missing. It also alerts the Office of the Public Trustee, as a copy of the affidavit has to be given to them as well.

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