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SENIOR ADVOCATE

By Liza Horvath

 

 

Missing and Presumed Dead

 

When Sasha’s dad left for work on June 2, 2006, it was a morning like most others. Sasha hugged him goodbye and extracted a promise of help with her math homework when he got home. Sasha’s dad did not come home that evening – nor has she seen him since. According to Sasha – the man simply disappeared. Police reports, calls to family members and friends and ads in newspapers have revealed no trace of her father’s whereabouts.

 

Despite having had a volatile relationship with her mother and siblings before she left to live with her dad, Sasha had no choice but to move back in with them while she finished high school. Once she graduated, Sasha found a job, moved out and began life on her own. Sasha hopes every day that he will come to find her but, with each passing year, hope fades.  

 

In 2012, Sasha filed a petition with the court to have her father “presumed dead.” It was not a petition she wanted to file – it seemed that by doing so she was admitting he was gone and she would be in alone in the world. Sasha’s mother and father were never married and Sasha’s siblings were step-brothers and sisters in blood only. She had never felt connected to that family.

 

The court petition was done at the urging of her advisor at college - Sasha had rights to property that had belonged to her father and, as an only child, she was the legal heir. To compel the release of the properties to Sasha, she needed a court order declaring him dead.

 

The attorney helping Sasha explained that if a person has not been seen or heard from for a continuous period of five years by those who would be most likely to see or hear from the person – in this case Sasha – and whose absence is not satisfactorily explained after diligent search or inquiry, they can be presumed dead. Sasha provided the attorney with the information she had about her father and gave him copies of the ads she had placed in the local papers. The attorney retained the services of a private investigator to search for the man but there was no new information forthcoming. It seems he had simply vanished.

 

Taking into consideration the diligent search efforts made and the time that had passed since Sasha’s father had been seen, the court found he was a missing person presumed dead under Section 12401 of the California Probate Code. Sasha was appointed the personal representative of his estate and was able to collect his retirement plan and a few dormant bank accounts. Also, to Sasha’s surprise, she received an unexpected inheritance from her grandparents’ estate – it seemed that once her father was presumed dead, she was in line for distribution of his share of their estate.  

 

Receiving her father’s assets has helped Sasha as she pursues her college degree but nothing, she says, will ever answer the questions she has about what happened that day. At the court hearing the judge warned Sasha that if her father did reappear one day, he could legally demand the return of his property. Sasha still holds on to the hope that one day he will show up – she believes she would freely give him all the money – and her love, too.

Liza Horvath has over 30 years experience in the estate planning and trust fields and is the president of Monterey Trust Management, a financial and trust management company. This is not intended to be legal or tax advice. If you have a questions call (831)646-5262 or email liza@montereytrust.com

 


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