Is there an inheritance you’re missing out on? Here’s why it’s not likely
While we don’t wish ill of anyone, one little dream that many people share is the long lost inheritance.
You have a distant aunt who lived happily in Europe until her death five years ago at age 100. You didn’t know you had a distant aunt until you travelled to Europe and visited the village that you knew your family was from. People in the village started talking: “maybe this is Giovanni” and the next thing you know, you’re being whisked to the village lawyer and told that you had a distant aunt who died five years ago and left you 100,000 euros. And the money’s been waiting for you all this time!
Such a win-win scenario – an aunt with a happy life, a potful of money to take home, and an introduction to relatives you barely knew you had. Could it happen to you?
Not likely, especially in today’s digital age. While any one of us could get an inheritance from someone who secretly names us in their will – a scenario that happens more frequently than you might think – if you are named in a will, it’s likely that you’ll find out soon after the person dies.
The reason is twofold: first, estate trustees (executors) have a duty to contact all beneficiaries, and they must make reasonable efforts to find unknown or missing heirs. So, the search is on quickly to find you if you are a beneficiary. You can read more about the duty of estate trustees to track beneficiaries here.
Second, in this digital age, it’s becoming less and less likely that you cannot be found, with search engines, social media and family history all available at the touch of a button. The internet has made those “so you’re Giovanni” moments few and far between.
That said, there may be situations where a somewhat distant family member has died and you think you might be a beneficiary. You wait for a month or two, but hear nothing. In addition, there have been more than a few family disagreements over the years, so you’re worried about your rights as a potential beneficiary and want to get information about the will.
In Ontario, this provincial government site provides a good overview of the estate settlement process, and where you can get information about a will. And this article by Newfoundland lawyer Lynne Butler provides some very practical steps that you can take to gain access to a will if it has not yet been made public.
Thank you for reading!