How Does Online Public Asset Search Work?

A person's assets include physical properties and items owned as well as the value of business interests, whether actual ownership or stock holdings. It can be very challenging time-consuming to find accurate information about an individual's assets.

Basic information such as home address and telephone number may be found through asset search online. Try searching for the person's name and zip code together. If he or she has posted a telephone number on a website it's likely you can find a public asset record this way too. Once you establish a place of residence it is possible to contact the clerk of the city or county to research resident records and find out (accurately) the individual's age, spouse's name, occupation, and more.

If using a specialized search engine such as Records Finder you may learn the identities of the individual's family members, which can be used to do asset records search, revealing businesses and properties held jointly.

How to Search for Asset Records?

To search a person's physical assets, one must delve into a multitude of records:

  • Property records, located in the assessor's office of the town where the property is owned, provide detailed information about the value of the physical property (land and buildings), whether they're home, business, empty land, or interest in another property. To search these records, find out if the applicable town or county property records are online, or contact the clerk of the county (or town) where the individual lives.
  • Related to property records, a deed (likely found at a state rather than county or town office) may include information on the mortgage or other valuable assets listed as collateral for a property loan. If the mortgage documents are available they will list more financial information that the mortgage company used to determine if the property were worth the price paid and if the borrower was a good risk.
  • Vehicle registrations include automobiles registered with the state, boats registered with the state and/or Coast Guard, and airplanes registered with the F.A.A. Some state vehicle registration information may be searchable – it's more likely to be found if the person is a public figure or an elected official because then the information could be considered “in the public interest” and more easily released.

Business Assets

Availability of business records often depends on whether a company is privately or publicly held:

  • Business ownership records registered with the state. Check the state government website where the individual lives or does business. If you search by the individual's name you may find ownership interest in more than one business entity.
  • Other business records include SEC documents filed by companies that offer shares and mandatory disclosures by companies that do business with cities and towns or that qualify for minority- or other special category ownership when bidding on state contracts. Check with the Secretary of State's office for this sort of information. Also, search the business website. If the company is large enough to have an annual report, it may discuss its annual sales figures in order to attract investors.
  • Court records such as civil settlements may reveal inside information about a business or property owned by the individual. Criminal records, too, may show the value of a business owned (if, perhaps, the person were fined or jailed for not paying taxes or state-mandated employee benefits).

List of Assets

Some records may reveal lists of assets:

  • Divorce decrees often require a list of properties and who will own or live in them after the divorce. These records also detail how one spouse is to be paid off for their portion of a vehicle, artwork, boat, vacation home, or investment account that the other spouse keeps. Not all states allow public access to divorce decrees; a search generally begins in the county where the couple lived or where the divorce was granted.
  • Bankruptcy records, whether personal or business, require divulging lists of assets so that the trustee assigned to the case has a complete picture of what is available to creditors and whether a restructuring of debt or a liquidation of assets is necessary. Along with divorce decrees, these records can be very important to understanding a person's financial footing because they likely include records that are otherwise not made public, such as stock holdings.
  • Probate records will list properties and heirs to estates unless the individual has created a legal vehicle to keep his assets out of probate (such as by using a trust).
  • Mortgage records can include lists of properties and assets and may be found through deed research. Sometimes it's necessary to find multiple deeds in order to locate the liens held against the property, but if the owner offered other assets as collateral it may be possible to calculate ownership of artwork and collector's items from that. The absence of a mortgage may also provide helpful insight into assets.