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Asset Searches – How Far is Far Enough?

Generally, an asset search investigation is requested to determine a subject’s tangible assets (or, quite often, to satisfy the court that there are no other recoverable assets beyond policy limits, albeit the injuries sustained may be valued at a much higher award).

Balancing the public’s privacy with informational needs is challenging but ultimately, very doable.

A basic checklist for the legal professional is to:

1. Relay the need-to-know reason to your investigative specialist. A business partnership dissolution v. a medmal case requires a very different focus.

2. Obtain as much lead information from your client as possible. The more information the investigative specialist is given, quite often, the more she can return and in a more cost-effective manner.

3. Local is often more reliable than generalized information. The first step in recording any asset begins at a local level. Many information companies provide “nationwide” information, which can widen the asset search scope. The drawbacks to commencing an asset search on a nationwide basis first, however, are

a) record update lag (delays up to 18 months),

b) incorrect data collection errors (many nationwide databases can return results only with exact names – misspellings will often register “no hit” status) and

c) incomplete information.

So now you, the attorney,  have the subject’s tangible assets information. The subject owns a Chelsea duplex, a home in Hyde Park and a boat docked at the Bayside Marina. The next step, from an investigative standpoint, can range from determining if the subject has any liens, judgments, bankruptcies and other pending litigation to a full criminal background check.

In answer to our premise question then: Asset Searches: How Far is Far Enough? Assess the potential settlement/judgment and the likelihood of the subject having seizable assets. For a large settlement/judgment, request a full background and asset search (certain convictions can prohibit a person from holding officer position in a business); medium settlement/judgment: basic background and asset search and for a small judgment: a basic asset search.

BNI Operatives: One step ahead.

As always, be safe.

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