Back to the Learning Center

By: Scott Grossman on September 24th, 2016

Finding all the money can be difficult in probate and trust litigation cases

Trouble identifying assets

From time to time I’m asked by my clients to find assets they are sure exist but can’t identify.  Sound confusing?  It has been for me.  Here’s an example, I represented two sons who were estranged from their mother.  They reconciled to some degree a few months before she died.  The sons were convinced their mother had a bank account with hundreds of thousands of dollars in it.

That part was fine.  In nearly all my cases family members provide a broad outline of what assets we should find and recover.  This case was different.  The sons couldn’t tell me what bank the account was in, when (generally) the account was opened, or where the money for the account came from.  In short, they couldn’t tell me anything about the account.

Their mother chose a friend as the executor because she created her will while still estranged from her sons.  So, I asked the executor about the account since it did not appear in the inventory and appraisal of assets for the probate estate.  He didn’t know of any additional accounts.  My clients weren’t satisfied.  They were certain there was a bank account.  I checked with the unclaimed property office at the California Secretary of State’s office.  There was no report of money being turned over from any source in the deceased mother’s name.

There was only one solution left, spend several thousand dollars on a professional asset search.  My clients were absolutely unwilling to spend that amount of money to find the missing account.  We were at a dead end.

Sometimes finding all the money is fruitless without proper investment

The life lesson is to maintain good relationships with your parents so you don’t ever find yourself in this situation.  The legal lesson is to accept that nothing in probate litigation or trust litigation happens without a cost.  Try the cheap and easy way first.  If that doesn’t work then move on to more expensive methods.  If you aren’t willing to invest the time and money then don’t expect good results when an asset you can’t identify isn’t found.