My mother died, and we did not do a probate administration. I was sent a letter stating that I may be entitled to her unclaimed property by an asset search firm. How do I know if this is a scam or true?
First, I am sorry for the loss of your mother. Losing a parent is often very traumatic, no matter how old we are.
There's not enough information from your FAQ request for me to give you anything other than general information. So if this answer is insufficient, I suggest calling the office, and let's talk about it a bit more.
The fact that you received a letter probably does mean that there are unclaimed assets of your mother's estate. You can check this out directly if she was a resident of Florida, by going to this website:
FLORIDA UNCLAIMED PROPERTY WEBSITE
But before you sign an agreement with the asset search firm, you need to understand how much they will charge you to collect the assets. Most asset search firms I know of charge between 18 and 35% of whatever they can recover. You might want to do some quick math and find out whether or not it would be less expensive for you to do a summary administration yourself.
The other concern is how long your mother has been deceased. In Florida, the statute of limitations for a creditor to claim against the estate is two years from the date of death. So if your mother has been deceased for less than two years, the asset search firm may conduct a summary administration for you, but you may be left holding the bag up to the amount of the total asset if there are creditor claims against the asset. This may not be found until after the summary administration order has been given to you and a creditor later files a claim in the estate administration. Some banks, like BOA, are notorious for doing such things. If such is the case with your mother's estate, you would be responsible for the full amount of the asset claimed by the estate to satisfy the creditor claim.
If you do not know what your mother's creditors were before she passed, I would be very wary of entering into an asset search firm agreement if it has been less than two years from the date of death.
You also mention that you are the only surviving child, but I do not know if you had other siblings who predeceased you and left children. If that is the case, the children of your deceased sibling would also be entitled to share in your mother's estate assets.
I think you probably need specific legal advice, which is beyond this FAQ question. So I would encourage you to call the office to discuss the matter or call an estate attorney near you who can help identify all the details/issues for you.
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If you have a general question that you would like answered by a Florida Estate Planning and Administration Attorney, please use the contact form to send Shawn a question. As long as it is general (and not too specific to your unique situation), Shawn will answer these questions in the form of a Frequently Asked Question to help you but also help others in our community.
Shawn can not offer legal advice in this format. He can only provide general information that you may find helpful. You should call an attorney and seek legal advice if you need specific legal advice.
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Law Office of Shawn C. Newman, P.A.
710 Northeast 26th Street
Wilton Manors, FL 33305-1238
Phone: (954) 563-9160
Serving all of the greater Fort Lauderdale area and Broward, Palm Beach, and Miami-Dade counties in Southern Florida.