You think the debtor may have recently inherited money, but he never mentioned the inheritance to you. You think he may be hiding it.
Depending on the state you live in and how the debtor handled the inheritance, you may not ultimately be entitled to your debtor’s inheritance under the law. But it may be something a matrimonial judge would consider when making decisions about distributing property and awarding alimony and child support. So if you think your debtor has inheritance money stashed away, here are a few possible ways to figure out what he may have.
If you have a joint bank account or otherwise have access to the debtor’s bank records in your house, take a look through them. If you see any large or unusual transfers or deposits that may be labeled as coming from an “estate,” your debtor probably received an inheritance. If you notice any payments to a storage facility, your debtor may have inherited valuable personal property — like an expensive rug or a piano that he is not storing in your house.
Some states require a person that has inherited money to pay a state inheritance tax on top of the federal estate tax. If your debtor lives in Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania or Tennessee, or if the deceased person lived or owned property in any of those states, he may have paid tax on his inheritance. If you have access to your debtor’s state tax filings, take a look to see if there is anything indicating that he paid an inheritance tax.
If you have an inclination as to which of your in-laws may have left your debtor an inheritance, you might be able to access that person’s will fairly easily. Most wills go through the court probate process in order to be settled. Though wills are generally private until a person dies, they become public once they are probated.
In general, an estate is probated in the county in which the deceased person lived or owned property. If you know the applicable county, search the internet to find that county’s probate court website. Keep in mind that the county’s probate court may not be called “probate court.” It may be called a “surrogate’s court,” an “orphan’s court” or some other name. Take a look at the court website and look into the process for obtaining probate records. Chances are you won’t be able to get them online, but will be able to obtain them if you either request them in person or by mail. If your debtor’s family member or friend died without a will, his/her estate may have also gone through the probate process, and you should be able to get your hands on those records as well.
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of picking up the phone. Chances are, if your debtor inherited something from a relative, his sister or brother probably did too. If you have a good relationship with your in-laws, try calling them up and asking them a simple question like, “what ever happened to your grandmother’s Persian rug? I think it would look beautiful in our living room.” It might naturally lead into a larger conversation about just what each sibling inherited from your debtor’s grandmother.