You think that your debtor owns property, but you cannot find any evidence that he owns any real estate in his own name. You suspect that he purchased property through a corporation so that you would not be able to find it.
If you do not know the name of the debtor’s companies, or you think he may have more companies than he has told you about, begin with a search of the department of state website in the debtor’s home state. Also try searching corporate filings in Delaware and Nevada, two common places to register businesses.
Keep in mind that certain states’ corporate registry databases are far more helpful than others. In New York, searching a partial name of a company will result in a list of all entities with names similar to the one you entered. This is a fantastic way to find the debtor’s other corporate entities, since people often will often have a series of companies with similar names. For example, a search of Company Inc. will also reveal Company II Inc., Company LLC., et cetera.
In one recent case, our client suspected her husband was concealing assets in companies he had kept secret from her. We found dozens companies the husband had registered in New York, Delaware, and Nevada simply by searching for company names similar to the handful of names our client had given us. We were then able to search public records to find out whether the debtor had purchased real estate through any of his myriad LLC’s and partnerships.
Once you know the names of the debtor’s companies, search county property records for each of them. As we discussed in our prior blog post on locating hidden real property, the best place to start is a search of property records in each of the counties where the debtor’s companies are registered or wherever else the debtor may have ties. You can also search online resources like ACRIS, the New York City Finance Department’s database of property records, which allows you to look up deeds by the owner’s name or by address.
UCC filings against the debtor or his companies can also reveal hidden assets. Public records of UCC liens will show whether the debtor has put up any property as collateral on those liens.