Estate Planning. What to do when there is no plan

By Tamara Shelley | Investigations

Oct 02

Estate Planning: What to Do When There is No Plan

Let’s face it, there is nothing fun about death or dealing with an estate or a will. Unfortunately, there will come a time when each of us will have to deal with the death of a loved one. According to Bryan Rathgeber of Anderson Estate Planning in Dallas, TX, the most important things you can do to plan are to:

  1. Make a will and have it fully executed.
  2. Draft a Power of Attorney.
  3. Make your wishes known to your family.

But what if there was no plan? When the ducks aren’t in a row, it can be an even tougher pill to swallow. Whether there is a will or not, sometimes things can still get complicated. This is where an investigation firm can help. Below are some legitimate things you need to consider when left with the monumental task of sorting out an estate:

  • Do you know where the Family Members, Heirs, or Beneficiaries of a Decendent are?

Investigations may need to be conducted in order to find family members, heirs, or beneficiaries of a decedent. Unfortunately, this can be a daunting task. Hiring an investigation firm to do this for you can save you tons of time and get you more accurate results.

The resources and tools available to investigators will turn up much more reliable results, and they can do it much faster than spending hours Googling and making phone calls. If you are in a time crunch to settle an estate or probate a will, this is the best option.


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Fail to take even one of these steps and you open the door to losses and significant risk.

  • What about taxes?

Did you know that in the state of Texas, there is an estate tax on an estate worth $5,000,000 or more? I once worked a case where the estate met the requirements of the estate tax. However, during the inventory of the estate, it was discovered that $1,000,000 worth of property was missing! On paper, the place was worth $5 million, but there was no property to substantiate it. An expensive jewelry collection was missing.

So how do you convince the IRS that the estate is now worth less? Was it stolen? Was it gifted? Was it buried in the backyard? One may never know. An investigation firm was hired and a full investigation was conducted, complete with interviews of anyone who would have had access to the jewelry, anyone who was a close friend or a relative of the deceased, and all former employees. Due diligence on the part of the heirs and executors of the estate was done. This was documented of course, and the IRS had sufficient evidence to reevaluate the taxes.

Finding family members and lost property are just a few of the headaches that can come with settling a deceased loved one’s estate. Investigations can provide help in many other areas and situations when it comes to estate planning, so keep this service in mind when planning or settling to lessen the burden on your loved ones.

For more information on what’s involved with hiring an investigation firm to help you plan or settle an estate, feel free to contact us at



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