How do you search for any land in someone's name in different states?
July 21, 2022 2:34 PM   Subscribe

My sister's dad estranged died and left her some properties...that she knows about. But he was a homeless millionaire type and bought stuff all over. Is there a way to globally search a state for any deeds in his name?
posted by rileyray3000 to Law & Government (6 answers total)
I’m pretty sure there are steps between “find name on deed” and “take possession of property”. Either his will appointed an executor (who will know about the contents of the estate) or the estate will be in probate court (in which case the court will find out the contents of the estate). But in either case, even if your sister did find some property that nobody knew about, it would have to go through a legal process to become hers (the IRS will want to know as well!) so her first step is to find out who is handling the estate and work with them.
posted by goingonit at 4:30 PM on July 21, 2022

Almost all property is subject to taxation, so there should be tax bills. In my town, I'd go talk to the Registrar of Deeds and ask for advice.
posted by theora55 at 4:47 PM on July 21, 2022 [1 favorite] looks like a front-end to a bunch of states' unclaimed property websites. This could be as dumb as "a paycheck for jury duty that they never cashed" or as big as "your employer didn't have a forwarding address for your last paycheck when you moved out of state."

And n'thing property tax, but that might only be useful if you have some idea of where the property might be... I don't know of a way to say "did Joe Fakename own any property in this state?"; usually the website is the other way around: "123 Fake St? Sure! That belongs to Daria Realname, who paid her property taxes on time last year; $5000 on the 5th of November"
posted by adekllny at 5:30 PM on July 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

If your sister's father was a homeless millionaire type who purchased a lot of properties the odds that all the properties he purchased would be searchable under his name is very small. It's highly likely some of the properties were purchased under an entity name (a limited liability company or trust or some other vehicle, etc.).

That said, all properties are subject to tax assessment or exemption classification and the assessor therefore carries the parcel ownership data of record. Assessor data is typically searchable by address, owner name, etc. where publicly accessible databases exist, which these days is more often the case than not. This data is all public. But if there is not a generally public and searchable database, it can be cumbersome to sift through data sheets and/or not readily available for general name searches. At any rate, you'd start with the assessor, typically by county or other regional level. There are many companies that can conduct the searches state-by-state for your sister for payment. An attorney could also do the same.

If you suspect that your sister's father may have purchased properties using some other entity name, however, you'll need to do a different kind of search first, by searching state commerce or business databases to see if his name is associated with any such entities. And then proceed to search to see if those entities own properties, etc. If the person really is a homeless millionaire type and there is reason to believe he was going around buying real estate at all in different states, this might be a good idea anyway because there could be other assets (or liabilities, mind!) associated with those purchasing entities too. For example: a checking account, savings account, or other financial instrument.
posted by desert exile at 6:41 PM on July 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

a private investigator who specializes in skip tracing would be helpful
posted by Jacqueline at 8:27 PM on July 21, 2022 [1 favorite]

Hi, I am a licensed private investigator. Yes it's entirely possible to search an entire state for property deeds under a person's name - PIs have access to databases that can do that, and can also search for deeds by address (like a PO Box) and by company name too. It's not an expensive search to do. My suggestion would be to look up the professional association for PIs in your area and reach out to a few of them to see who you might like to work with. I'm sure there will be someone who'll be happy to help.
posted by pintxo at 12:58 AM on July 22, 2022 [4 favorites]

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