Money Week : Are you the heir to an unclaimed fortune?

Daytime TV aficionados will know Finders International as the business that provides genealogists for the BBC’s Heir Hunters, says Elliott Haworth in City AM. Founder and CEO Danny Curran “spends his days trawling through birth, death, and marriage records” to track down the heirs to unclaimed estates. It’s a £50m industry, and Curran’s firm is dominant, thanks to the show.

The business is still low-tech. When Curran launched the company back in the 1990s, the internet offered little help to the start-up genealogist. “We had to go to a place called the Family Records Centre. It opened two evenings a week and on Saturdays,” he recalls. Attempts to digitise records since then have foundered due to concerns over privacy. “So ironically, here we are in 2017, going to Westminster Library every day to check death records on microfiche – it’s absurd,” says Curran.

Much of Finders’ work involves helping people track down distant relations listed on a will. But a record number of estates are being listed as intestate. Curran says that a will exists in a fifth of such cases, but it can be a challenge to uncover. Today, government agency Bona Vacantia publishes a list of unclaimed estates online, but the move has attracted fraudsters keen to pocket inheritances. In the age of the internet, the work of leafing through old documents remains as relevant as ever.

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