Assets SearchWHY 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 a suit.
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 funds.
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 hidden assets.
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 furnishings.
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 attached.
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 member.
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 government uses.
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 employment.
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 individual's bank.
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 holdings.
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 determine ownership.
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 assets.
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 institution.
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 judgments.
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. investigativeprofessionals.com for business members.