You must prove the identities of deceased's next of kin in probate, the court proceedings that approve the will and grant authority to the executor to settle the estate. All the deceased's immediate heirs, as determined under state law, are required to receive notice of the probate even if receiving nothing from the estate under the terms of the will. Omitting an heir from probate invalidates the proceedings, wasting the time of the involved parties and slowing down estate settlement. The probate court can confirm heirs, but you may have to give documentation to the court to get an order.
Visit the probate court. Ask for a copy of the court rules and heir documentation requirements, as both vary by area. Read over the rules and document requirements. Make a checklist of what you need to prove heirship for reference.
Use official documents, such as birth certificates, to help prove close relations. Include a copy of any state identification. For example, the birth certificate of the deceased's child shows his parents' names. Marriage certificates show the spouse. Get certified copies of official documents for probate court.
Acquire sworn statements from persons who knew the deceased but receive nothing from the estate. For example, the probate court may allow longtime friends of the deceased to file affidavits about the deceased's known family and lineage. Include how long the person knew the deceased and how he knew the deceased, such as "former co-worker."
Draft a family tree if the probate court requests one for clarification. Include all immediate branches of the deceased family and the dates of death for any deceased members.
Ask the probate court for a list of approved probate researchers. Probate researchers determine next of kin through various search methods and provide a report to the probate court. Arrange for a search. Give the researcher all genealogical information you have about the deceased.
Contact a probate attorney for help if you cannot locate or identify all heirs.
The court may order an attorney to represent unknown heirs if you cannot document next of kin is to the probate court's satisfaction.