Reading resident Wlodzimierz Bogusz a World War Two veteran died in 2003 without leaving a will. As is normal in cases of intestacy the Government Solicitor advertised for “potential claimants” to the estate, an advert that was picked up on by Heir Hunter Peter Birchwood of Celtic Research. Mr Birchwood traced Mr Bogusz relatives, including his brother Mykola Bogusz, in Ukraine, who in the light of Mr Bogusz daughter having been adopted he believed had a claim to the whole estate, even though another heir hunting company advised him that there were other potential beneficiaries
In return for a retainer fee Mr Birchwood was appointed administrator and given a power of attorney to claim the estate on behalf of the Ukrainian relatives.
Mr Birchwood’s claim was challenged by Mrs Cheryle Vallee at the Oxford County Court on the basis that, even though she had been adopted as a child, in a meeting shortly before his death Mr Bogusz had gifted her his major asset, his house in Reading along with some other personal items.
Mrs Vallee had visited her father in August 2003 four months before his death at which time he handed her his medals and an old photo album along with the title deeds and keys to his house stating that “he wanted her to have the house when he died.”
The court found in favour of Mrs Vallee because her father had “gifted” the house to her “in contemplation of his impending death.” The appeal court finding that because the house had been “gifted” before his death it fell outside Mr Bogusz estate. If the house had been part of the estate, as an adoptee, Mrs Vallee would not have had a claim. Unfortunately for Mr Birchwood he was also ordered to pay Mrs Vallee’s costs as he had acted “in the hope of financial gain and should incur the consequences of having done so.”
The case, that has only now been resolved almost ten years after Mr Bogusz death, shows how complex an intestacy can become and some of the potential pitfalls for Heir Hunters, who when working for heirs on retention can incur considerable costs for little or no reward.
Finders work on many complex international cases and take great care to ensure that they trace all the beneficiaries to an estate. Having been established for over 15 years Finders team of professional genealogists ensure the best results for beneficiaries and carry the essential missing beneficiary protection insurance.
Finders have been awarded the ISO 9001:2008 Total Quality Management certification and are the first probate genealogy firm to achieve the international version of this Standard as devised by the IAB (International Accreditation Board). Finders also provide missing beneficiary insurance, which protects trustees and administrators against the event of an unknown beneficiary emerging after an estate, has been distributed. As agents for Aviva they are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
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