It can be a sad and solemn duty, but when you have been given the role of executing the will of a recently deceased loved one, the process shouldn't be too complicated. You simply arrange for the assets to be distributed as stipulated by the will. You're likely to be familiar with all the persons listed in the will, and as for any donations to charities or educational institutes, it's not difficult to find the relevant contact details for these organisations. What about when there's a listed beneficiary in the will whose name is entirely unfamiliar? Not only do you have no idea who they are, but you also don't know how to contact them. What should you do when you can't fully execute a will simply because you don't know how to contact a particular beneficiary?
Who Is This Person?
The wording of the will might not necessarily shed any light on the situation. The will might make a note about the person's relationship to the deceased, but this information could just as easily be absent. It could be that the will was made quite some time ago, and while it's still valid, the listed beneficiary and the deceased hadn't had any contact for an extended period of time. Regardless of your own thoughts on the matter, the beneficiary still has an entitlement to what has been left to them, and it's your job to make every reasonable effort to make them aware of it.
How Can You Try to Find Them?
Making every reasonable effort follows a fairly expected line of progress. You could search for the person on social media and any applicable online directories (perhaps something as simple as the white pages), contact them at their last known address, or at their last known place of work. Some states in Australia have a mandatory requirement that a notice of intended distribution of the estate must be publicly listed. There's no guarantee that the person you're looking for will notice this listing, but it creates another means for word of mouth to get back to them. What happens if every reasonable effort has been made any you're still no closer to finding the person?
What Happens Next?
Ideally the deceased will have used the services of wills and estates lawyers to draft their will, since you can then be professionally advised about the best course of action without needing to seek additional assistance. There are a number of variables, but the amount in question earmarked for the elusive beneficiary will usually be put into a trust to be claimed at a later date, with the rest of the estate being distributed in line with the will. It might feel like a loose end, but you have made every reasonable effort to locate the person, and so have met your obligations.
So while there can be some detective work involved with some wills, that detective work generally comes to an end once every reasonable effort has been made.