If TV documentaries are to be believed, the work of genealogists mainly involves racing door-to-door, informing various relatives that they have inherited fortunes. However, this does not reflect the true extent of their work or the extent they can assist the private client solicitor.
For example, a person dies having left a Will but without making a provision for the contingency of him outliving his beneficiaries, resulting in a partial intestacy, as none of the residuary beneficiaries have survived the deceased.
It may not be possible to determine from the will any other person who can assist with identifying the relatives of the deceased who have now become entitled to inherit. Depending on the deceased’s family circumstances, it may be necessary to seek out relatives even more distant than second cousins.

Common surnames

Another problem that may be encountered in attempting to administer certain estates could be that certain surnames are so common that it is diffi cult to identify the correct individual; another circumstance where a genealogist’s services could be invaluable.
Even when a benefi ciary can be identifi ed, there may be difficulties locating the individual. Current trends of migration and relationships are also a major factor here. Two generations ago it may have been unthinkable, however the growing prevalence
of multiple marriages and those with an international element, means that there can be complex family arrangements located all over the world. Again, genealogists can help.
Despite the wealth of information available on the Internet about family genealogy, (often plagued by incomplete records and incorrect information), the task of properly identifying all the entitled beneficiaries can prove impossible without the assistance of a professional probate genealogist.
Without their input and research, it is often unfeasible to say with certainty that one has correctly identified the beneficiaries and correctly administered the estate. This leaves a solicitor open to potential claims of mal-administration, should beneficiaries entitled in priority later emerge and to rectify would be at a significant cost.

Certainty and Confidence

Through a professional genealogist, their systematic research and interviews with located beneficiaries, it is possible to reconstruct the family fully and to render it in family trees. This can be used as an aid to distributing the estate. This in turns brings certainty and confidence to the personal representative, professional and family that the estate is correctly distributed. It is not just this; genealogists can help with a number of other matters – locating missing wills or assets, just to mention a few. It can be seen that the image presented on TV overlooks much of their work and the significant value they hold for private client solicitors, who should consider instructing a well-established firm with a good reputation in a variety of circumstances.

Claudia Whibley
Child & Child

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