Inheritance Items Not Held Under Probate: How To Recover Them When They Are Missing

Posted on: 16 January 2017

If your parents passed away and left their estate in the hands of a probate lawyer, you may be surprised to learn that not everything is covered under the protection of the probate law. Some property, which may be deemed of little value, could easily be claimed or stolen from the house because of this loophole in the probate law in many states. It could be anything from a rhinestone brooch to a pick-up truck. If things go missing, and you know you were supposed to inherit them per your parents, here is how you can retrieve them and keep them.

The List of Items/Assets Not Held under Probate

There is quite a list of items typically not held under probate. These items can be quickly dispersed after your parents have passed away. Unfortunately, they can also quickly disappear or be stolen by those who are not supposed to inherit them. As you begin to settle your parents' estate and affairs, look for these items:

  • Household items of insignificant value (usually less than $100, although some states allow less than $500 as the rule of thumb)
  • Vehicles, especially those that were titled in more than one person's name (e.g., both your parents claimed it and now both have passed)
  • Pensions, wages owed, retirement funds and accounts--essentially any liquid assets that are specifically willed to the survivors
  • Property and luxury/recreational vehicles such as boats, campers, RVs, etc. that have a "transferable on death" certificate attached to them

There are others, depending on the state in which your parents resided. If anything is missing and should have gone to you, check with the lawyer next.

Have the Lawyer Check the Will

The probate lawyer can double-check the will to see if your parents mentioned specifically to whom the items in question were bequeathed. If it lists that these items were most definitely supposed to go to you, but they are not under the probate law for security and dispersal, you can track the items down and take them back. You may need the police's help and a copy of your parents' will(s).

File Police Reports for Items You Suspect Are Missing and/or Stolen

Over-eager siblings looking to take a chunk of the inheritance unfortunately often take more than they should. Vehicles are easy to spot, unless they are deftly hidden elsewhere or sold. Since this is not information that you yourself can acquire, you need the police to intervene.  File reports for each of the items that appear to be missing and/or stolen, and file a copy of the will pages where it lists that these items exist and should (eventually) become your property. Then the police can dig around and track down what happened to them, if anything.

For more information about the probate process, contact a firm like Leon J Teichner & Associates, P.C.