Thanks to the popularity of shows such as Heir Hunters on BBC 1 daytime TV, most people will be familiar with probate researchers and the role they play in locating the missing heirs to an estate. But what does their day to day life involve?

Finders International’s Rachel Harrington is a busy member of the Finders’ public domain team. Here, she lets us know about what her day to day life in the office involves…

Rachel Harington
Pic: Rachel Harington

“I’m based in the London office, and the first thing I do in the morning is log on and check my emails for anything important that might have come in overnight. If there are any urgent call-backs or emails, I’ll respond.

The spreadsheet

“Another morning priority is what I refer to as the ‘holy grail’ spreadsheet.

“Once my inbox is under control, I review my cases from the day before, making sure that I follow up on any updates and I’ll create a plan of action for that morning. There is something very satisfying about writing a to-do list for the day and ticking off the actions one by one.

“I’ll then spend the morning finishing off any active research from the day before (or other active research on my work file) whilst keeping a close eye out for the BV list!

The BV list is the Bona Vacantia list. It’s produced by the Ministry of Justice, and it lists all the estates of people who have died while resident in England and Wales, and who did not leave a will and do not appear to have next of kin.

Urgent cases

“When the list comes out it’s all hands on deck! These are our most urgent cases so it’s vital that everyone plays their part. I’ll assist with valuing the cases on the list and identifying any cases that stand out from the crowd. When I open a case, myself and my colleagues will all jump in and work together to find the heirs to the estate as soon as possible. Working as a team is key to working the list successfully.

“If the BV hasn’t published anything that day, I’ll go back to tricky important cases that have outstanding research and progress them forward.

BV cases

“Once my BV case has been worked and/or my active research has been handled, I’ll take my lunch. Our office is fairly central in London, so if you want to go out for something to eat, you’re spoilt for choice.

“After lunch is when I usually tackle my follow up calls as well as sorting through any tasks on my to do list that aren’t urgent.

“Towards the afternoon if it’s quiet I try and schedule in some time for outstanding research on pending cases or report drafting. This is the time when I also try and schedule in training with other members of the team.


“At around 3:30pm I usually do a last minute check to make sure all the birth, marriage and death certificates I need have been ordered and all urgent tasks for that day have been attended to.

“The rest of the day is spent progressing my work file as much as I can. I will also create a to do list for the next day.

“Finally, just before the end of the day, I will send out any post I need to forward to solicitors. We work with lots of law firms and solicitors, so they are used to receiving correspondence from us. Then, that’s me for the day and I head off home to put my feet up!”


Interested in a career as an heir hunter? We are always keen to hear from anyone interested in joining us at any level, so don’t wait for a vacancy to be advertised, send us your CV and a covering email today. Find out more on our Vacancies page.