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Legislative Framework

(Reprinted with amendments adopted on April 20, 2011)
FIRST REPRINT A.B. 291
– *AB291_R1*
ASSEMBLY BILL NO. 291–ASSEMBLYMEN HORNE; AIZLEY,
ATKINSON, BUSTAMANTE ADAMS, CARLTON, CARRILLO,
DALY, DONDERO LOOP, FRIERSON, GOICOECHEA, HOGAN,
LIVERMORE, MASTROLUCA, MUNFORD, PIERCE AND
SEGERBLOM
MARCH 16, 2011
____________
Referred to Committee on Judiciary
SUMMARY—Makes certain agreements between heir finders and
apparent heirs relating to the recovery of property in
an estate void and unenforceable under certain
circumstances. (BDR 12-306)
FISCAL NOTE: Effect on Local Government: No.
Effect on the State: No.
~
EXPLANATION – Matter in bolded italics is new; matter between brackets [omitted material] is material to be omitted.
AN ACT relating to estates; making certain agreements between an
heir finder and an apparent heir relating to the recovery of
property in an estate void and unenforceable under certain
circumstances; and providing other matters properly
relating thereto.
Legislative Counsel’s Digest:
1 This bill provides that an agreement between an heir finder and an apparent heir
2 relating to the recovery of property in an estate for which the public administrator
3 petitioned for letters of administration is void and unenforceable if the agreement is
4 entered into during the period beginning with the death of the person whose estate
5 is in probate until 6 months thereafter.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEVADA, REPRESENTED IN
SENATE AND ASSEMBLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
1 Section 1. Chapter 139 of NRS is hereby amended by adding
2 thereto a new section to read as follows:
3 1. An agreement between an heir finder and an apparent
4 heir, the primary purpose of which is to locate, recover or assist in
5 the recovery of an estate for which the public administrator has
– 2 –
– *AB291_R1

http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/76th2011/Bills/AB/AB291_R1.pdf

MINUTES OF THE
SENATE COMMITTEE ON JUDICIARY
Seventy-sixth Session
May 12, 2011
The Senate Committee on Judiciary was called to order by Chair Valerie Wiener
at 8:09 a.m. on Thursday, May 12, 2011, in Room 2149 of the Legislative
Building, Carson City, Nevada. The meeting was videoconferenced to the
Grant Sawyer State Office Building, Room 4412, 555 East Washington Avenue,
Las Vegas, Nevada. Exhibit A is the Agenda. Exhibit B is the Attendance Roster.
All exhibits are available and on file in the Research Library of the Legislative
Counsel Bureau.
COMMITTEE MEMBERS PRESENT:
Senator Valerie Wiener, Chair
Senator Allison Copening, Vice Chair
Senator Shirley A. Breeden
Senator Ruben J. Kihuen
Senator Mike McGinness
Senator Don Gustavson
Senator Michael Roberson
GUEST LEGISLATORS PRESENT:
Assemblyman William C. Horne, Assembly District No. 34
STAFF MEMBERS PRESENT:
Linda J. Eissmann, Policy Analyst
Bradley A. Wilkinson, Counsel
Judith Anker-Nissen, Committee Secretary
OTHERS PRESENT:
John Cahill, Clark County Public Administrator
Donald L. Cavallo, Washoe County Public Administrator
Chris Ferrari, Kemp & Associates
Daniel J. Mannix, Kemp & Associates
Ty Kehoe
Carolyn Ellsworth, Securities Administrator, Office of the Secretary of State
Senate Committee on Judiciary
May 12, 2011
Page 2
Annette James, Lead Actuary, Life and Health Section, Division of Insurance,
Department of Business and Industry
Ross Miller, Secretary of State
Scott Anderson, Deputy for Commercial Recordings, Office of the Secretary of
State
Bryan Wachter, Retail Association of Nevada
Sam McMullen, Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce
John Griffin, Independent Gaming Operators Coalition
Matthew Taylor, President, Nevada Registered Agent Association
Trevor C. Rowley, Executive Vice President, Nevada Corporate Headquarters,
Inc; Executive Vice President, Corporate Service Center, Inc.
Jed Block, State Agent and Transfer Syndicate, Inc.
CHAIR WIENER:
I will open the hearing on Assembly Bill (A.B.) 291.
ASSEMBLY BILL 291 (1st Reprint): Makes certain agreements between heir
finders and apparent heirs relating to the recovery of property in an estate
void and unenforceable under certain circumstances. (BDR 12-306)
ASSEMBLYMAN WILLIAM C. HORNE (Assembly District No. 34):
John Cahill, Clark County Public Administrator, will explain to you why he needs
to have additional time to find heirs of estates, a job he was elected to do.
JOHN CAHILL (Clark County Public Administrator):
I am in support of A.B. 291. My first case had almost $3 million in assets with
no will and no known heirs. All the information I share today is public
information because it comes out of my office. The case name was Rives, and
the attorney who I selected to represent the estate was Charles Deaner.
Mr. Deaner, a longtime attorney in Las Vegas, started practicing in 1954.
Mr. Deaner served in World War II, went to law school and had a commonsense
background before he started practicing law. Mr. Deaner served as president of
the Clark County Bar Association and president of the State Bar of Nevada and
earned many honors as an attorney.
In the Rives case, I filed the necessary paperwork on Friday and on Monday was
called by an attorney representing the heirs. The attorney stated, “We have
found your heirs.” I said, “What do you mean you have found my heirs? I do not
understand how this works; explain this.” I found out there are heir-finding
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May 12, 2011
Page 3
firms. If they can get onto a case where there are no known heirs, they will find
the heirs and get them to sign for a percentage of their inheritance. What these
firms say is, “We believe you have an inheritance; we will lead you to that
inheritance if you agree to pay us a percentage.” Most commonly, the
percentage is 33.33 percent. The heirs sometimes will not sign, but sometimes
they will.
Finding an inheritance is like hitting the lottery, and the heir-finder firms are
going to show them the location of the ticket. In the Rives case, the heir-finding
firm brought the heirs to me. I learned how the firm did it, and I just put my
head down on my desk. It was my first year in office and the first time I had
come up against this. I thought I had done something terribly wrong. I thought,
“Oh, we are going to get sued; these heirs are going to want to know why I did
not find them.” How come the heir-finding firm had to find them? I did not even
get a chance to work on the case. In the end, the heir-finding firm’s percentage
was about $600,000 for two days’ work. Now I ask anybody on the
Committee, can you find a legal way to make $600,000 over a weekend? How
hard will you fight to keep that process in place? I would say, pretty hard.
This is why we are here today and why this needs to change. The precedent in
Nevada is the case of unclaimed property held by the State Treasurer. Heir
finders are prohibited from being involved in an unclaimed property case for
24 months. They are limited by State law to no more than 10 percent of the
estate, and they are excluded as a party. In other words, if the heir finder
connects the unclaimed property to the heirs, the State holds that the contract
is between the heir finders and the heirs, and it will have no part of it. The
Treasurer will pay the unclaimed property directly to the heirs, and it is up to
the heirs to pay the heir-finder firm based on the contract.
In the case of probate, the heir-finder firms can cut in front of me. They get to
jump into a case when I have not had an opportunity to look for the heirs. They
sign the heirs up, the heir finders pick the attorney by referral, and that attorney
operates as a representative for the heirs for a percentage of the distribution.
The attorney will represent that the distribution should be paid first to the
attorney, then that attorney pays the heir-finder firm, pays himself or herself
and then pays the balance to the heirs for their final distribution.
The heir-finder industry anticipates that this bill may pass—that our Nevada
lawmakers will believe that on behalf of Nevada families and families
Senate Committee on Judiciary
May 12, 2011
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everywhere it is proper to put into the probate process at least part of what
they have put into place for unclaimed property. That cuts the heir finders out
of the system. In the case of a public administrator, I have an opportunity to do
my job to find the heirs.
Last week, I filed a case where one heir had been located in California and one
in Arizona. An heir-finder firm found the heirs, signed them up for a percentage
and referred those heirs to an attorney in Las Vegas. The heir-finder firm then
advised the heirs to nominate a private fiduciary and cut the public administrator
out. The heirs have the right to do that nomination and I have no fight with
that. The administrator, Jared Shafer, was selected by the attorney referred by
the heir-finder firm. Mr. Shafer will do a fine job; he will make sure all of the
proper heirs are found and that the distribution is properly done.
The court held that the heirs have the right to nominate Mr. Shafer, but what
this process shows is that the heir-finder firm is willing to control the process
from beginning to end. They will sign the heirs, pick the attorney by referring
the heirs to him or her and then advise the heirs. The heirs in California and
Arizona could not pick either me or Jared Shafer out of a lineup. They have no
idea who we are; this is all based on the advice of their attorney. The heir-finder
firms control the process from the first step to the last.
And there is still a mystery. I do not know how they find these cases. I do not
know how they find cases that have, at the time the person is deceased, no
known heirs and no will. In the case that happened last week where the firm
filed and successfully cut the public administrator out, a death when there is no
family and no obituary takes weeks to get a death certificate. I know these
firms pay a bounty to people who lead them to these cases. I am told
anecdotally they pay runner services that go to attorneys’ offices, and they pay
people at the county clerk’s offices; but in this case, nothing had been filed yet.
DONALD L. CAVALLO (Washoe County Public Administrator):
I am in support of A.B. 291 as it is written today. The six-month window is an
appropriate period of time, especially since the language within this document
says, “the period beginning with the death of the person.” There are times
when we do not receive a referral from either a medical examiner or an
attorney’s firm for months after the death. This would give us an appropriate
window to work within that time. There are already a number of time lines set
within the probate process that require things to be done in a quick fashion
Senate Committee on Judiciary
May 12, 2011
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throughout the estate process. But when you prepare notice to creditors and so
on for an estate, you can easily be involved for nine months to a year before the
distribution period takes place.
When it comes to the heir-finder firms, they perform a task. We have utilized
them in the past when we have exhausted our own abilities to search for the
next of kin. One concern I have is their form of payment, entering into contracts
with individuals outside. In the probate process, all fees to any professionals are
approved by the courts. We also have the ability to hire attorneys for absent
heirs, and those attorneys’ fees are also approved by the courts. As long as
there is some governance over this process, I am in support of the bill the way
it is written.
CHAIR WIENER:
Mr. Cahill mentioned statutory limits of a fee up to 10 percent. Could you help
me understand that? Also, I heard something about a 24-month window. There
are many time lines bouncing around; in the bill we have six months, and we
have mandatory offerings that reduce that substantially. Was that something
that was struck as a compromise from something else? This is the first reprint;
was that part of the change in the draft?
MR. CAVALLO:
In the first print it was set as a 12-month window, and it was moved to
6 months. There will be individuals to testify against the bill who want that
window shorter. I am not familiar with the other figure of 24 months that was
mentioned.
CHAIR WIENER:
Mr. Cahill had mentioned a 10 percent cap; he had also mentioned by contract.
Could you tell us how you would see this working in terms of the procedure?
MR. CAVALLO:
I do not believe the bill addresses a fee that an heir-finder firm can enter into a
contract with a beneficiary. It would have to be completely refashioned. That
would involve more time, but if there was a cap on the percentage of the estate
that went to the heir finders of 10 percent to 25 percent, that would be a more
realistic figure. We have seen heir-finder firms go up much higher. The most
I have seen is around 40 percent or so. As Mr. Cahill said, the heir-finder firms
come to the next of kin and say, “We will enter into this agreement with you.”
Senate Committee on Judiciary
May 12, 2011
Page 6
But normally, from my understanding and experience over the last 24 years in
doing this type of work, the heir-finder firms do not tell the heirs where the
estate is or the name of the deceased until after they have the heirs on
contract. The family does not have an opportunity to do any research
themselves.
CHAIR WIENER:
How often does this happen in Washoe County?
MR. CAVALLO:
We have perfected our investigations. In the last fiscal period, we only
escheated to the State around $3,000, so it does not happen often. In one of
our more complicated cases, we had to go internationally, and it took us over a
year and a half to find the next of kin. There have been a few occasions when
we had attorneys file a notice of appearance on behalf of an heir-finder
company. We contacted the attorneys and filed an order to show cause to have
the attorney appear in court to produce the client and the documents of the
records of the beneficiary. The attorney did a notice of withdrawal and walked
away from the estate. We have not had too many in Washoe County.
SENATOR GUSTAVSON:
I am unfamiliar with this process and how the process worked before. How do
other states handle this? Do they have caps or time lines?
MR. CAVALLO:
I would have to defer to Mr. Cahill because he has done research on that issue.
MR. CAHILL:
This has been difficult to research because there is such a variety of ways the
states handle this problem. Some states require heir-finder firms outside the
state to employ an agent licensed as a private investigator to operate within the
state. There are states that apply fees and business licenses, and there is a
wide range of things they do.
I confused things earlier; I was referring to the 24-month period, the limitation
of 10 percent and not acknowledging any heir-finder firms as a party to the
distribution. These come under a uniform act titled Unclaimed Property in
Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) 120A. I bring up that example as a reference.
The reason I feel it is a useful reference is we have had people ask why the
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May 12, 2011
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government is sticking its nose into this process. These heir-finder firms are
private businesses; this is interstate commerce. When heir-finder firms sign up
heirs, that is a contract between the heir and a private agency, and it is none of
the government’s business. I do not hold it against the heir-finder firms that
they will fight hard to keep this process in place; there is big money involved.
But that big money is taken away from the heirs where it should properly go.
The opponents to this bill are going to bring up examples where the heir-finder
firms have done a good job by connecting heirs who could have otherwise been
cut out.
But in the case of the public administrators, we made the change from the first
writing of the bill that would have applied to any administrator, and we asked
for 12 months. We made the change to limit it to the public administrator and
reduced the 12 months to 6 months in the hope the heir-finder firms might
support this bill. But they are here today testifying against the bill.
Nevada Revised Statutes 120A show the State’s willingness to get involved in
this process and to prevent what I will read to you in a minute—a letter from
Charles Deaner (Exhibit C) to the State Bar of Nevada. Mr. Deaner characterized
it as “being ripped off by bounty hunters.” I will read just a portion of that
letter, and then I will enter that letter into the record as a part of my testimony.
For the purpose of this bill, those 24 months and the limit of 10 percent are
only a reference to the State getting involved in this process, so you can set
that all aside. My strategy was to focus on one issue: give me the time to do
the job that I have, while appointed public administrator, to locate the proper
heirs and to make sure the distribution is done properly.
Members of the industry have already tipped their hand because now seeing
that is my approach, they are willing to get involved in the process that will cut
me out completely. In a similar case I am defending, the heir-finder firm filed a
petition that involves heir finders. They allege that I am dragging my feet, taking
too much time looking for heirs and squandering resources of the estate by
looking for heirs in a case that, as Mr. Cavallo pointed out, is international, and
that always takes more time.
In this case, we know the names of the heirs; we have the last addresses of the
heirs provided by the decedent, who had eight siblings. It may be that all of
those siblings have passed away, but we are working hard to locate them and
to confirm them. In the meantime, an heir-finder firm found the children of one
Senate Committee on Judiciary
May 12, 2011
Page 8
of those siblings and filed on behalf of those siblings. Even though we have not
completed finding the heirs, the firm is now saying, “We want to get rid of
Mr. Cahill and get somebody else in there. We think this should be settled.”
Even when we have the names of the heirs and we are in the process of
locating those persons, they want to move it forward; they want to hurry up.
The only reason I can figure why the heir-finder firm wants to hurry up is that
they want to get their commission.
In this same estate, there is $150,000 sitting in a bank account with a
pay-on-death beneficiary whom we are also looking for, even though it is not
our duty. If the pay-on-death beneficiary is not available, that money will
increase the amount of the estate and thus increase the distribution. That will
also increase the earnings of the heir-finder firm because their earnings are
based on percentage. The firm is very anxious to push these things, to hurry
and get it settled. I question their motivation to find more heirs because when
that distribution gets cut and spread out, their earnings drop. I am not accusing
the firm of anything improper, only that influences need to be considered,
especially when I have two cases in which heir finders are trying to push me out
completely—and they have successfully done it once.
I will read part of Mr. Deaner’s letter dated January 9, 2008, Exhibit C, that
was addressed to the State Bar Probate and Trust Law Section. The State Bar
of Nevada has remained neutral on this matter, which is a powerful position
since it relates to the attorneys’ abilities to earn through this particular process.
From what Mr. Cavallo said about the attorneys representing the heir-finder firm
and in Mr. Deaner’s letter, I now clearly understand the attorneys always
represent the heirs. The heirs are referred to the local attorneys by the
heir-finder firms. In that manner—and this is unusual in probate—the relationship
between the heir-finder firms and the heirs is held to be outside of the
jurisdiction of the probate court because of attorney-client confidentiality, and
the probate court is unable to inquire what percentages are paid to the
attorneys and what percentage is paid to the heirs.
Once the money is paid to the heirs’ attorney, it goes into his or her trust
account for subsequent payments to the heir-finder firm, the attorney and then
distribution to heirs. There is no tracking that the heirs have received their
distribution.
Senate Committee on Judiciary
May 12, 2011
Page 9
However, I do not question that system. I do not believe any Nevada attorney
would risk his or her standing at the State Bar of Nevada by doing anything
improper. It is just an awkward process when you take this bundle of activities
and put them outside the jurisdiction of the probate court, where the probate
court approves all fees paid to the attorneys and the administrator and reviews
claims and other debts paid for the estate.
I have Mr. Deaner’s permission to submit his letter to the Committee, Exhibit C.
I have other items for the Committee: “Notice to Heir Finders” (Exhibit D) and a
letter from Tina M. Walls, Esq., dated May 10 (Exhibit E).
SENATOR GUSTAVSON:
The reason I asked my question was that our Committee has all of these
Uniform Law Acts, and out of curiosity I wanted to know what other states do.
I am not suggesting we do that with this bill, but what are other states doing?
How are they handling the matter? I did not get an answer or a good answer.
CHAIR WIENER:
This one may not have a Uniform Law Act. Mr. Wilkinson, does this have a
Uniform Law Act?
BRADLEY A.WILKINSON (Counsel):
No.
CHAIR WIENER:
It will now.
CHRIS FERRARI (Kemp & Associates):
Kemp & Associates is a genealogical research firm in business since 1966.
Kemp has identified heirs around the world, providing an important service to
the citizens of Nevada and across the Country. This is a complex business;
Kemp & Associates have a close affiliation in Salt Lake City with the
Genealogical Library. It was not Mr. Cavallo or Mr. Cahill, but after the last
hearing in the Assembly Committee on Judiciary, another administrator from the
State asked me, “Are you working with Kemp? Those guys found this person in
Thailand that we could never find; it took years, and they did it in a couple of
weeks.” This is an important process. Oftentimes, heir-finder firms support the
public administrator when the administrator does not have the ability or skill to
Senate Committee on Judiciary
May 12, 2011
Page 10
identify that heir. Many times the heirs petition the court to hire a business like
Kemp & Associates to assist them in the process.
We are here in opposition to A.B. 291 as written but in support of the concept
Mr. Cahill and Mr. Cavallo are referencing. We appreciate and respect the role
public administrators play and want to continue to support them in that regard
and allow them to perform the job for which they were elected.
For the record, we do not deal with unclaimed property, something that was
mentioned numerous times. Also, Kemp & Associates dealt with three cases in
the last year in the State.
We worked very closely on this bill in the Assembly, both with Mr. Cahill and
Mr. Cavallo, and with Chair Horne of the Assembly Committee on Judiciary. We
are trying to find a middle ground.
To answer Senator Gustavson’s question, there is only one other state in the
Country with any type of limitation on the use of heir finders, and that state has
a time frame of 60 days.
Additionally, the letter Mr. Cahill referenced from what sounds to be a reputable
attorney, Mr. Deaner, Exhibit C, states, “We would have been able to locate
these heirs within 24-48 hours.” And that is exactly the point; many times with
technology and especially with the sophistication of somebody like Kemp &
Associates, and even on the public administrator’s level, those people are often
found within 24 to 48 hours. As things get more complex, it can take more
time. But to incorporate some kind of time line of six months when the only
other state in the Country has a 60-day time line would make Nevada
something of an anomaly. Mr. Deaner also references, Exhibit C, a statute as it
pertains to unclaimed property, although we do not deal with unclaimed
property, which talks about a 30-day period to locate those unknown heirs. For
that reason, we propose in our amendment (Exhibit F) to change the time line
from a six-month limitation to a 30-day limitation.
Additionally, we provided one other document titled, “How Heir Finders Serve a
Critical Check and Balance for Nevadans” (Exhibit G). These are numerous
cases—and this is not in any way negative toward a public administrator—that
regardless of how the case is closed, there are heirs who are not identified.
These are legal, rightful heirs, and this has happened in numerous cases
Senate Committee on Judiciary
May 12, 2011
Page 11
Kemp & Associates has worked. In many other cases, heirs have been found
who were higher ranking in the hierarchy, such as a cousin versus a cousin once
removed, and so on. Many times people get greedy when they find there is an
estate, and it is not uncommon for those people to hire an attorney, jump in and
say, “We are the only heirs,” knowing full well other heirs may exist. The
private sector in this case provides an important check and balance in this
process, and we respectfully request your support to our proposed amendment.
CHAIR WIENER:
Mr. Ferrari, on May 5, I received a proposed amendment from you that said
60 days, and then on May 10, I received the proposed amendment that you are
referring to that says 30 days. Please share with me what happened in those
few days so that you cut it in half again.
MR. FERRARI:
We reviewed the testimony from the other side and listened through the
minutes. After hearing Mr. Deaner, who was referenced in this process
numerous times, refer to a 30-day window, we thought it would be a better
place to start. Obviously, it depends on the will of the Committee. If that seems
unreasonable in any manner, we would defer to you.
SENATOR GUSTAVSON:
How many employees are there in Clark County? Are there several employees
working for Mr. Cahill? Mr. Cavallo has quite a few employees. Maybe there are
not enough employees or they do not have enough money in the budget to hire
enough employees for staffing. We hear testimony about heirs being ripped off
and about attorney’s fees—reasonable attorney’s fees when attorneys are
getting involved is a good idea—but I do not want to see people ripped off.
MR. FERRARI:
Mr. Mannix has some 20 years in the business, and his testimony will answer
that question.
DANIEL J. MANNIX (Kemp & Associates):
My firm has been researching estates with missing or unknown heirs since
1966. Briefly, I would like to explain that process: A hypothetical example
would be if a person dies with an estate which consists of his or her home
valued at $150,000 that has been in the family for generations.
Kemp & Associates would do a genealogical research on the family, possibly
Senate Committee on Judiciary
May 12, 2011
Page 12
going back to a 1930 census; we will assume the person was born in Ohio. We
would research the person’s mother and father to gain some genealogical
information about them. If we were to find the father, we would research a
1900 census; perhaps he is in New York. If we found the father with
two brothers, those are the future uncles of the person who passed away in
Nevada. We would then bring them to the present, try to find out what
happened to them and their families. If we had an uncle who passed away in
Miami in 1980, we would send someone down to Miami to research the records
to see if that person had any family; the researcher would look at a will,
obituaries and so on. The children of that person would be the future cousins of
the person who passed away in Nevada. We would then contact them and
inform them they were heirs to an estate. Another part of our process is to put
together a professional genealogical chart with exhibits showing these people
are indeed attached all the way through the grandparents to the person in
Nevada.
Oversimplified, that is what we do. Many estates are distributed before
six months, and some as quickly as 30 days. That is one of the reasons we
have issues with regard to this bill. Only one state in the entire Country has any
time constraints trying to locate heirs for estates, and that state has
implemented a 60-day limit. Other reasons why we have concerns with this bill
has to do with estate assets; they are time sensitive. For example, if the
decedent has a cabin on Lake Tahoe, it could easily be sold in short order prior
to the appearance of unknown heirs. If the decedent has family pictures or
World War II memorabilia, these items may be sold or discarded prior to a
six-month waiting period before anyone could begin to look for the proper heirs.
Another situation is if the decedent had bonds or stocks, the rightful heirs may
want to have input regarding whether they are sold, when they are sold or
taking them in kind. The deserving heirs should not have to wait six months
before they have influence on the assets that are theirs.
I want to give you two examples of Nevada probate estates that support our
reasoning: in the estate of Marion Keith, a mobile home park manager produced
a will for a person who was living in the mobile home park. The will was
produced just prior to her death and was questionable in nature because it gave
everything to the mobile home park manager. We did the genealogical research
and found nieces to the estate. The nieces were personally familiar with the
decedent, but they would not have been contacted, and the manager would
Senate Committee on Judiciary
May 12, 2011
Page 13
have gotten the estate. Through our research, the right people got the estate.
Mr. Ferrari mentioned a case in Thailand, the estate of a man in Carson City.
The public administrator hired an international company to locate a half brother
who was believed to exist; they were unable to do so. We did the research and
had to go to Europe. Many times family members are in Europe, and it is
difficult to locate the records because of the wars, specifically World War II.
I have a case right now with an Auschwitz survivor, and it is difficult. There is
no way to do that research from the United States; you have to get professional
people over there. We contacted someone in France because there were
connections there. The researcher traveled to Thailand and had a Thai-speaking
Frenchman help locate the correct heir. Because of our research, the right
person got the money.
We provide the ancillary benefit of checks and balances in the majority of the
cases that we research, and we do so at our own risk with no costs to the
estate. In Nevada alone, we have helped hundreds of Nevadans get what is
rightfully theirs based on statute. And if this bill is passed as written, Nevada
would be the only state to have a law like this. This bill would damage our
industry and potentially put us out of business.
TY KEHOE:
I am an attorney licensed in Nevada and residing in Henderson. Although the
public administrator provides a valuable service in Nevada, this bill seems to be
a solution without a problem. During the Assembly hearings, Mr. Cahill
referenced 22 cases where an heir finder was hired by his office to search for
missing heirs in his approximately five years as the public administrator.
I estimate approximately 15,000 probates were filed during that time. He
references approximately one-fifth of 1 percent of the cases and only mentions
one of those with a negative outcome, the Rives case.
My opinion as an attorney, in spite of it being my trade and practice, is that the
fewer statutes the better. We do not need to be filling up statute books with
new statutes without a definitive need. It is interesting that Mr. Cahill does not
mention a complaint made by the heirs in the Rives case. And frankly, I am not
aware of a single complaint by heirs being made to the Secretary of State, the
State Bar of Nevada or anybody else regarding the heir finders.
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May 12, 2011
Page 14
I know Mr. Cahill does a good job. He is sincere in his effort to find heirs, and
he is honest in his disclosures to the court, unlike a lot of people who come
before the court claiming to be the correct heirs when they are not. But
Mr. Cahill will not be the public administrator forever. There have been former
public administrators, including Mr. Shafer, who was mentioned by Mr. Cahill in
his testimony today. Mr. Shafer was a longtime Clark County Public
Administrator, and it sounds like he is involved with the heir-finder firms at this
time. He is representing them, he is assisting them in the process and he must
be comfortable with the process. In addition, I can testify that former public
administrators did not search for the heirs like Mr. Cahill does. That was not
their priority, objective or purpose. When we get a new public administrator at
some point in the future; he or she may not search for heirs, and there may be a
dead time when the unknown heirs are not sought. The issues raised by
Mr. Mannix regarding family heirlooms, family properties or otherwise make it
even more important that the process be expedited and these heirs located.
Mr. Deaner’s letter, Exhibit C, suggests 30 days; that is where the proposed
amendment comes. His letter says that heirs can be found within 24 to
48 hours. Therefore, 30 days seems to be appropriate. For years, I have
personally been involved representing heirs located by Kemp & Associates.
Mr. Mannix has mentioned a couple cases, but there are repeated cases where
incorrect heirs come forward or are presented and Kemp & Associates has
found the correct heirs. The exhibit presented to the Committee today,
Exhibit G, also mentions cases that happen to be public administrator
cases—one where the estate escheated within less than 30 days and the
correct heirs were found after the fact. And the second one closed in 16 days,
which is how fast this process can sometimes work.
This bill should not be passed at all, and that would be my preference. It is
actually unnecessary. But if the Committee is inclined to pass the bill, we have
attempted to be reasonable; we have attempted to understand the issues of the
public administrators, and we have suggested changing the proposed time line
from six months to 30 days.
CHAIR WIENER:
What seems minor can be significant. Mr. Kehoe, you indicated on the sign-up
sheet and your introduction that you represented yourself, but I heard
references in your testimony to your being a party to the amendment and
working with Kemp & Associates. Are you a practicing attorney in this area?
Senate Committee on Judiciary
May 12, 2011
Page 15
MR. KEHOE:
I am a practicing attorney in the probate area. I have been hired for a few years
now by Kemp & Associates. When Kemp locates cases in Clark County in which
heirs need representation, Kemp & Associates hire me on behalf of those heirs.
CHAIR WIENER:
I will close the hearing on A.B. 291 and open the hearing on A.B. 72.

http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/76th2011/Minutes/Senate/JUD/Final/1119.pdf

Exhibit C: http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/76th2011/Exhibits/Senate/JUD/SJUD1119C.pdf

Exhibit D:
http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/76th2011/Exhibits/Senate/JUD/SJUD1119D.pdf

Exhibit E:
http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/76th2011/Exhibits/Senate/JUD/SJUD1119E.pdf

Exhibit F:
http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/76th2011/Exhibits/Senate/JUD/SJUD1119F.pdf

Exhibit G:
http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/76th2011/Exhibits/Senate/JUD/SJUD1119G.pdf

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