But how do you know that you are dealing with a professional organisation in what can often be a delicate and emotional process? Death can often leave behind regrets, as well as its legacy of grief; and tact and professionalism is a necessary part of our business.
For those of you who have not seen the programme, Heir Hunters documents the professional work of organisations such as ours as we locate missing wills, work on tracing next of kin and finding unknown beneficiaries.
Of course, this often makes for entertaining and informative television – and in fact, we get a lot of tweets from people who really enjoy the programme. Take the recent case of Marson Naylor, for instance, where our case manager Ryan Gregory traced some 60 beneficiaries to Mr Naylor’s estate. His search took him back to Mr Naylor’s past and his relatives, who included a London chimney sweep – a fascinating glimpse of Victorian London and times (and occupations) long gone.
And then there was the case of Florence Addison who died at 93 and whose daughter and grandson had tragically died before her, a prospect that Mrs Addison could not have anticipated. The search took our team back to the families of Mrs Addison’s sisters and a successful conclusion.
When it comes to proving our professional credentials, we are members of the Association of Professional Genealogists, an international organisation dedicated to supporting businesses such as ours who work in genealogy, and it promotes high ethical standards.
That isn’t enough for us, though… We also work according to a professional code of conduct, which sets out the standards we have drawn up for the conduct of our business.
Why do we think a professional code of conduct is necessary? Well, there have been many new entrants to the field of probate genealogy since the BBC Heir Hunters series began, and there are only a handful of established companies in the UK.
There’s not yet a central regulatory body, so although we are members of professional associations and societies – none of them can impose any kind of enforceable regime or standards on organisations.
Our code, which you can read in full here, is designed to protect the people that we work with, provide assurance that we work conscientiously, professionally and ethically, and that there is a formal complaints procedure that you can use if you do not feel that we have fulfilled our obligations to you.
We are also willing to investigate complaints against other firms and individuals, as unfortunately rogue firms do exist and people can end up spending alarmingly large sums of money with such firms and having nothing to show for it.
Heir Hunters is a great programme, but the business of finding wills and locating missing next of kin is not primarily about entertainment. It requires professionalism, tact, thoroughness and experience, which is why we insist on a code of conduct which makes us thoroughly accountable to you.