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Using Skip Tracing to Locate a Beneficiary in a Deceased Estate

Reading time: 5 minutes

Lawyers are sometimes charged with the task of finding a person mentioned in a will. Frequently they turn to us to assist in that process.

This is a story about a missing son who was named as a beneficiary in his father’s estate. The son did not make it easy to find him but our skip tracer managed to track him down.

Names, details and other identifying information have been changed for dramatic effect and to protect the privacy of those involved.

Finding a Lost Son

In April 2013, Noah Colling of a local community centre received a phone call from a gentleman who identified himself as Angus McAllister. Mr. McAllister wanted to enlist Colling’s assistance in finding his son. At age 82, he was revising his will and wanted to include his son in the estate.

The difficulty lay in the fact that McAllister hadn’t been in touch with Thomas in ten years and didn’t know where he was or how to find him. The only information he had was that Thomas had sought treatment for heroin addiction at the community centre and that was the last that his father had heard of him. So naturally his first thought was to inquire of Colling.

Old man tries to locate missing son for will
An old man wanted to find his estranged son for the will before he died.

McAllister’s request seemed relatively unremarkable at first glance. All kinds of people and situations tended to filter through Colling’s phone, his mailbox, his email, or his office door. A single mum struggling to provide for her family. An uncle at his wits’ end with his alcoholic live-in nephew. An aged care centre employee suspected of stealing from residents. Colling had gotten into the habit of being ready for anything.

An Unsavory Backstory

Colling thought that McAllister’s name sounded familiar. He wondered where he had heard it before. After getting off the phone with the man, he suddenly remembered: Angus McAllister had been associated with a number of unsavory activities for a number of years. Extortion, embezzlement, and insurance fraud were at the top of the list. Very few of these had hit the papers. As is typical with many wealthy and well-connected men, he had been able to keep his misdeeds from being exposed to daylight.

Colling, however, was fairly well-connected himself. Some of his closest friends were police detectives and they had a tradition of meeting after hours on Thursdays at a local pub. Over a couple of beers their tongues tended to loosen. McAllister’s name had come up more than once in their narratives.

A Conversation

Colling looked in his closed case files and found a number for Thomas McAllister. He reached a man who identified himself as that person, but said that he didn’t want anything to do with the will, his father, or anything else along those lines. This was a surprising development.

Colling informed McAllister that he would have to convey that to his father himself, and wished him a good day.

Melbourne Investigations Gets Involved

In November of 2018, Angus McAllister died and the solicitor for his estate contacted the offices of Melbourne Investigations. Thomas McAllister had indeed been listed as a beneficiary in his father’s will, but once again could not be found. The phone number that Colling had used to locate Thomas was no longer in service, and he no longer lived at the address listed in the community centre file.

A sizable estate including boats and cars
If the estate beneficiary could be found, he would inherit boats, cars and cash.

The estate included a fully paid off property, thirteen vehicles, two boats, and money in the bank. The total value was over two million dollars. Angus McAllister’s will needed to be executed properly, and the lawyer was intent on finding Thomas.

Our associate Alicia Nguyen was assigned to the case.

An Experienced Skip Tracer

Ms. Nguyen, an experienced skip tracer with over a decade of experience in this business, sprang into action.

She began by placing a phone call to the solicitor, Peter Farnum. He provided her with the same information that Major Colling had obtained from the community centre file, as well as an address in Wiley Park. He wasn’t certain about the address. It belonged to a Thomas McAllister but he had no way of knowing if it was the correct person.

A lawyer helping locate the beneficiary of a will
The lawyer was contacted to try and skip trace the missing beneficiary.

She tried the number, which was the same one that Colling had called. It had been disconnected.

She did a search to find a phone number that corresponded with that address. She called the number. No one answered, although she let it ring 15 times. She tried that number many times, but never got any response.

Then she used her databases to do a reverse search for the same address, and found a Charles McAllister, age 57, who used to live there. Thomas’s full name was listed as Thomas C. McAllister, so this was very possibly the same person. A second reverse search found a Justine Abernathy, age 53, who had lived there as well. A partner or girlfriend, perhaps?

Getting Warm

Ms. Nguyen did a new search for Ms. Abernathy and found an address for her in Menai. A search for that address yielded the name of a Charles McAllister who also lived there.

Now Ms. Nguygen was getting warm.

Further investigation yielded more hits for Charles along with a mobile phone number. Success!

The intrepid skip tracer called Thomas C. McAllister on his mobile.

Missing person is found

When Thomas answered, Ms. Nguyen introduced herself and disclosed the purpose for her call. The conversation that ensured was a remarkable one.

Thomas was very angry. “I never wanted anything to do with this,” he shouted at Ms. Nguyen. “I haven’t spoken to my father in years. He’s a terrible person. His money is ill-gotten. It’s filthy. I don’t want it.”

Angry son rejected the inheritance
The beneficiary of the will rejected a sizable inheritance.

“Well, Mr. McAllister,” said Ms. Nguyen consolingly, “it’s all right. You don’t have to take it if you don’t want it. However, by law it belongs to you. You can discuss with your attorney and decide what you want to do.”

There was a loud click as Thomas signed off the call.

Our office notified the solicitor of the outcome and wrote up a final report. We closed the case as the process was completed. The skip trace had taken two weeks.

A Surprise Ending

That evening as Ms. Nguyen was eating dinner with her family, her cell phone rang. She saw from the number that it was Thomas McAllister. Puzzled, she picked up the call

Thomas was even angrier than before and he was yelling so loudly that she had to hold the phone away from her ear. He had figured out (he said) that she was trying to scam him but that he had “found her out” and called the police.

And he was rejecting the inheritance.

Melbourne Investigations closed the case.

Let Us Help You

Every case involving a missing person ends differently, but all should start in the same way: by engaging the services of a reliable agency with solid expertise in skip tracing.

Melbourne Investigations works with solicitors across Australia to locate missing people included in deceased estates. Get in touch with us today to start your skip trace.

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