As the one area of law which nearly every member of the public is likely to encounter in their lifetime, the vital importance of the will and probate sector cannot be understated. Underpinning the work of solicitors in this sector, are the essential services provided by professional probate genealogists. Working for solicitors, executors, trustees or beneficiaries, these probate professionals identify and trace heirs, in addition to locating beneficiaries under will or intestacy rules.

Although at first glance, tracing heirs may appear to be quite straightforward, the issues surrounding wills and succession are often complex and many solicitors or administrators dealing with an intestate estate will have encountered a feeling of dismay when it becomes apparent that a deceased may not have left a valid will. Finders are experts in finding solutions to such issues and work with solicitors to consider the various solutions to problematic cases, including those involving low value estates, ‘homemade’ wills containing very little information, no known next of kin or cases involving cross border issues such as overseas beneficiaries. By referring these kinds of cases to professional probate genealogists, they are frequently able to apply their specialist knowledge and methodology to achieve a successful result for our clients.

As well as dealing with technical problems being in the client’s interest, there are important commercial reasons why solicitors should consider using the services of professional probate genealogists. Solicitors dealing with intestacies will no doubt have in the back of their mind that if they distribute the estate to those entitled under intestacy rules, there is the possibility that a valid will is later traced. Should this happen, it can be difficult to resolve and be very costly and time consuming for the solicitor involved. Insuring against this risk is an important way for solicitors to safeguard against the costs involved. It is noteworthy that it is in fact a requirement of the most commonly used insurance policies for the solicitor to have instructed a professional probate genealogist to carry out a missing will tracing exercise. On completion of this exercise, and if no will has been traced, the genealogists can obtain a ‘missing will’ insurance policy. This covers the solicitor against the possibility of a will or more recent will being found.  As with any such insurance this can be of great comfort to the client.

Similarly, where there are missing beneficiaries, despite best endeavours, it is appropriate to consider taking out ‘missing beneficiary indemnity insurance’ even if it is considered that the possibility of the missing beneficiaries coming forward at some time in the future to be remote. Such insurance cover protects solicitors from the costs associated with untraced beneficiaries coming forward to make a claim against an estate in the future.

Through close co-operation, solicitors and Finders can offer clients a range of comprehensive professional services. This will be increasingly vital as the legal profession diversifies under the Legal Services Act and the market opens up to legal services.

Probate genealogy firm, Finders, is delighted to announce its appointment as sponsor for the forthcoming Isle of Wight Law Society Annual Dinner and Dance. The annual event celebrates the achievements of local practitioners and is an important opportunity to discuss the issues affecting the legal profession. It will take place on 11th November 2011 at the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes.
Daniel Curran is the Managing Director of Finders.

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