It’s National Pro Bono Week (2-6 November) – a celebration and recognition of the voluntary work undertaken by lawyers and legal professionals who provide free legal help to those who need it.

This year, the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown has presented a unique challenge to the legal profession. Pro-bono legal help has never been more important.

Finders International works closely with the legal and public sector on cases where people die without a valid Will or appear to have no known next of kin. In the last 12 months, we have carried out 640 cases pro bono for local authorities throughout the country – an almost 24 percent increase on the previous year (26/10/2018 to 25/10/2019).

Finding people on social media

The cases include:

Margaret Banner*, who’d been born in Burma and married in Santorini, where she gave birth to a son. The Finders International team tracked him down on social media, discovering that he lived in Greece. The team was able to phone him and break the news, putting them in touch with the local authority in charge of the home where his mother had died.

In the case of Lisa McCleary*, the Finders team traced her sister and passed the woman’s contact to the London council where Lisa had lived. The council informed the team that the sister took over the funeral arrangements for Lisa, meaning the family rather than the council could organise it.

One of five siblings, Walter Hanson* came from Newcastle originally, but moved to London in the 1950s or 60s. He had returned to Newcastle in the 1960s to visit his family, but when he returned to London, they never heard from him again. Over the years, the family tried to trace Walter themselves. His mother had visited London to search herself and went to the address he had provided, only to find that the street no longer existed. Walter’s niece added that she thought her family had needed to take out insurance on their estates—proviso against a family member turning up—as they had no way of finding him. When the Finders team contacted the family to inform them of Walter’s death, the news came as a shock.

Investigations carried out free of charge

In all cases the value of the estates was negligible and Finders International carried out its investigations free of charge.

Danny Curran said: “Pro bono work is part of our ethos here at Finders International, as our firm strongly believes in corporate social responsibility.

“Finders has extensive experience in finding people no matter where they are in the world, so we’re ideally placed to offer this valuable service to councils and will continue to do so for years to come.”

Finders International trace missing beneficiaries to estates, properties and assets.  To see a full list of our services, please visit our website.  Alternatively, you can contact us via telephone +44(0) 20 7490 4935 or email [email protected]

*All names have been changed to protect identities.