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Forensic Genealogy: Abandoned properties and heir search - What you need to know

Why do I need a forensic genealogist?

A guide to the forensic genealogical research, also known as probate, heir or estate research.

Israel is the only country in the world where the government actively searches for heirs to abandoned properties, that are managed by the state for a specific period of time, in order to ensure that they are maintained well, they do not lose their value, the local municipalities can continue to grow and develop and the State has time to find their legal heirs. To date, over 300,000 abandoned properties in Israel are managed by the State. They go through the period of management years and during this time the State is obligated to find heirs.

With such amount of cases open and not enough manpower, such cases await their turn and sometimes years pass before the attempt is made to find heirs. The files vary from those before 1948 up (meaning that the property was purchased during the British Mandate) until today and more cases are added daily.

The probate is the process, overseen by the Israel court, whereby a deceased person's assets are distributed to their heirs and creditors. However, as with everything in life, this process is not simple if there are no known heirs, i.e. the owners disappeared or died without children, a will or any instructions.

Because the Israeli State is the only country in the world that tries to find heirs the forensic genealogist are much better trained to look for missing persons all over the globe, often starting with nothing, but the name and the date that the property was purchased on. The searches for heirs are undertaken on every single continent.

How can a forensic genealogist help me?

For estates in Israel

If you suspect that your direct ancestors (parents, grandparents, great-grandparents) owned a property in Israel (regardless of whether or not they ever came to or visited Israel), but have never dealt with it at any point in time - it is very possible that the property is waiting for its turn to be managed and it's heirs looked for.

You can speed up this process and not wait for another generation to pass by contacting one of our consultants and having the records checked for the property that you believe belongs to your family.

Over many years many people purchased properties in Israel for many reasons, such as planning to make Aliyah at some point, running away from the war, Zionist reasons etc.

In case there will be a question of proving the relation, out team of forensic genealogists will assist you. They are trained in obtaining and extracting hard-to-find documents. The relation for the purpose of inheritance that is taken into consideration extends to the the grandparents' descendants and you can be entitled to inherit the estate if closer relations prove to be deceased or non-existent. This often happens in cases where parts of the family were wiped out during the Holocaust.

For estates worldwide Our forensic genealogists are highly trained in their field and often surpass those that work with cases outside of Israel.

We offer out services in obtaining any sort of documentation that you might be looking for. In addition, even in the cases where the will exists, the forensic genealogy assists with the research conducted for the purpose of assisting in legal matters. A forensic genealogist can be invaluable in the probate process. In testate cases, there are several reasons research might be required. The estate might not be able to locate an heir named in the will. For example, the deceased might leave his assets to his niece. There may be no other identifying information in the will. A forensic genealogist will analyse the family relationships; identify the siblings of the deceased and search for nieces and nephews until that niece is both identified and located. In addition, in many states, even if the decedent has left a valid will, the estate must notify the potential heirs at law that the probate process has begun. Basically, those who would have inherited if there was no will must have the opportunity to contest, or challenge, the will; the court may require notification of the family members who would have inherited under intestate succession that the process to administer the estate has begun. In many cases, the beneficiary under the will does not know every member of the decedent’s family. A decedent may have left their estate to a trusted friend, a distant cousin or even a charity. The executor of the estate may be required to submit proof to the court that all parties have received the appropriate notification. A forensic genealogist can prepare a report outlining a due diligence search for the family members who would have been potential intestate heirs based on the appropriate state’s intestate succession law.

Forensic genealogy research is different


Traditional genealogy research usually begins with the client or his/her ancestor and works back in time to discover earlier generations. Forensic research begins with the decedent. As forensic genealogists, we examine the immediate family including spouses, children, grandchildren, siblings and parents. If no potential heirs at law are yet found, we continue back to the grandparents and then research their descendants until all possible potential heirs at law, according to the laws of succession for the appropriate state, have been identified. As forensic genealogists, we employ census records, probate records, obituaries, newspapers and vital records such as birth and death certificates; the same records used in any other genealogical research. However, as forensic genealogists, we also search a host of more current records as well. These additional sources might include social media, public record databases, property assessment databases, records of arrests and inmate locators, and community and club newsletters. Sometimes we need to be creative in finding sources that will reveal family relationships. We get in touch with the local authorities, the police and other governmental organisations in order to assist us with the search. It is important to recognise that forensic genealogists are not licensed private investigators. Private investigators are often employed to find missing, but known, individuals. They use skills, techniques and proprietary and/or legally protected data to find a person who has been previously identified. As forensic genealogists, we use publicly available and not legally protected records to research families. Forensic genealogical research defines relationships, uncovers unknown heirs and provides biographical data needed to locate and contact interested parties.

To get in touch with our consultant, send us an email here.


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