WHY CONDUCT AN ASSETS SEARCH?
An asset search is vital to full disclosure in matters both
civil and criminal.
New Business Venture - If you are thinking about investing
in a new startup or an existing business, or bringing a new
investor into an existing company or contemplating a merger
between companies, it is essential to conduct a thorough
background check on the investor and the business entity.
Always conduct a comprehensive assets search.
Prior to Entering into a Lawsuit - It is important to
conduct an assets search prior to filing suit against an
individual or company to determine what assets or regular
income is present in the event a judgment is ordered by the
court. It is not worth the cost of legal fees to file a suit
against a person or company that will be unable to pay any
court-ordered sum. If the entity to be sued has nothing of
value that can be taken, there is no point in entering into
Collecting on a Judgment - When the court orders a sum of
money to be paid, as part of a civil action, a judgment is
issued, this is simply a court order for the payment of
The judicial system only orders payment, but collection is
the responsibility of the plaintiff. A judgment will stand
for ten years, but can be extended to become permanent.
Divorce - Divorce situations are often complicated. Spouses
do hide assets. Conduct an asset search of the party being
divorced to be certain all assets are accounted for.
Child Support and Alimony - Public child support enforcement
agencies are ill-equipped to locate parents who evade their
child support obligations. Information regarding their
wages should be given to the proper child support
enforcement agency, which will facilitate collection.
Contestation of a Will - Personal assets may be hidden and
not disclosed in a will. Potential beneficiaries or those
entitled to a claim against the estate should search for
WHAT ARE ASSETS?
Personal assets are personal property or real property.
What you own is assets. Your home and other property you
own, your vehicles, RV's and airplanes - even your household
Tangible Personal Property - This includes vehicles,
equipment, inventory, telephone systems, computers, bank
accounts, stocks, bonds and paid insurance policies with
cash value. Ownership is determined by possession unless
the property must be licensed: vehicles, boats, airplanes.
For those types of property, the ownership is determined by
title and registration.
Intangible Personal Property - Includes wages, accounts
receivable, promissory notes, contracts, patents, royalty
agreements, and other income.
Real Property - Homes, condominiums, apartments, commercial
buildings, and land are real property. Only a residence
protected by a homestead exemption is exempt from being
HOW TO INITIATE AN ASSETS SEARCH
Before attempting to locate assets through public records,
you should have at least one identifier: SSN, DOB, or an
address. Also try to learn place of employment. Obtain the
names of close relatives, because often, when attempting to
hide assets, people will place them in the name of a family
The most adept bill collector is the IRS. Skip-tracers -
and any individual who takes the time to conduct the
searches necessary to locate the assets of both persons and
companies - can employ many of the same methods the
People hide assets because they have money or property they
don't want discovered. Hiding assets is not necessarily a
sign of criminal intent, but could indicate a moral or
ethical fault in a subject's character.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION
National Death Index - The SSA Death Index should always be
checked to see if, when and where a subject may have died.
If an estate was filed, the most likely location is the
state or country where death occurred.
Income/Wages - A major asset that can be attached or
garnished is a person's wages. In collecting on a judgment,
child support payments or divorce settlement, it's important
to know what property a potential defendant owns and what
income or wages are earned.
Finding a Defendant's Place of Employment - Skip-tracers
often conduct surveillance on a subject by getting up early
and discretely following the person to his or her place of
Unearned Income - This important source of revenue includes
money that comes from rental property, dividends, or
interest on stocks or bonds. This information may be
difficult to obtain.
Subpoena of Business Records - If it becomes necessary to
use the courts to obtain information, a subpoena of the
subject's employment records by means of a Business Records
Subpoena may reveal payroll checks that have been cashed. On
the endorsement side you will likely find the name of the
CHECKING PUBLIC RECORDS
Public Records - Available in city halls, county courthouses
and state repositories, these records contain valuable
information available to all who inquire. Learn how to
obtain the types of documents that will reveal asset
Local Level Searches - Always start a search at the city or
county level where most documents regarding real property,
corporate data, UCC filings, divorce and community property
proceedings are to be found.
Search Jurisdictions - There are 4,300+ jurisdictions in the
USA that store records that can be useful to those seeking to
locate assets. Most of these jurisdictions are at the
municipal and county level.
Real Property - The best documented of all assets is real
property. Records are kept at the county level at either the
County Recorder's Office or Register of Deeds. Real property
records are indexed by name of property owner, and
cross-indexed by the property address. The market value of
real property is not easily determined from tax assessments
or mortgage balances. Look for quit claim deeds, as these
are often filed when property is transferred to a family
member or friend.
Motor Vehicles - The DMV will provide information regarding
ownership, charging a fee for this data. Vehicles are
registered either under the individual's name or, in some
states, that of a company.
Boats - In each state, the natural resources department will
have information regarding boats or other water-operated
vessels that are owned by individuals or companies.
Aircraft - The registration of aircraft is made through the
FAA. Check the name of the individual or company to
Corporate Property - Regarding seizure for payment of debt:
Unlike individuals, corporations don't have property
exemptions. Information about a corporation's operations and
personnel can be found at every Secretary of State's office.
Many states do not require verification of the
identification of those who apply to form a corporation.
THE IMPORTANCE OF UNIFORM COMMERCIAL CODE (UCC) FILINGS
The UCC is a vital source when investigating business
dealings. The law requires that a financial statement be
filed whenever transactions take place that involve the use
of personal property as collateral for a loan or lease.
There is much valuable information in UCC filings that can
serve as clues for the furthering of an investigation into
Start your search of UCC filings in the state where the
subject resides. Banks, leasing companies or individuals
who have financially backed a business enterprise are
excellent sources of information. They are often willing to
divulge information when questioned. They may be capable of
providing important details regarding other types of
business arrangements or assets not specified in the UCC
filings. The defendant will likely bank at the same
UCC filings remain active for a minimum of five years, but
can be extended. The filing may include a copy of the loan
application and a copy of loan check issued to the debtor.
LOCATING BANK ACCOUNTS
A bank account is highly liquid and is the easiest asset to
attach. The most commonly asked question is, "Does the
person who owes the money have an account at a particular
bank?" Unfortunately there is no central database that
maintains bank account numbers. Once a bank account has
been located and verified with either social security or tax
ID numbers, it can be attached in payment of court ordered
Many people with means have more than one bank account,
insurance policy, brokerage account or safety deposit box. A
good information source regarding an account that pays
interest is a person's tax return. You'll need a subpoena
to get tax return information.
About the Author:
How To Investigate and Investigative Professionals have been
conducting Asset Searches since 1996 for individuals,
employers, property owners and managers, company executives,
financial institutions, universities, and law firms. Assets
search results are returned within 24 hours of submission.
Satisfaction guaranteed. howtoinvestigate.com for individuals.
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