An international approach to finding missing beneficiaries

There is nothing more certain in life than death. Unfortunately many people do no inheritance planning, keeping lawyers and professional probate genealogists constantly busy. But why has the use of probate genealogists become so essential to probate lawyers?Before an estate is distributed the solicitors must ensure that all the beneficiaries have been found. This is where the specialist skills, knowledge and proactive approach to tracing beneficiaries of a professional probate genealogy company like Finders comes into it’s own. Unlike an amateur genealogist probate genealogists use publicly available records to trace a family tree forward in the attempt to find missing heirs, it is a completely different approach for which there are no training courses.

Some probate genealogists charge fixed or ‘time and motion’ fees, but most work on a contingency fee basis where beneficiaries will agree to pay the ‘heir hunter’ a percentage of their entitlement. This is generally seen as being a fairer charging method than a fixed fee, especially in cases of intestacy, the percentage reflecting the size of estate and complexity of the case.

When an estate becomes ‘Bona Vacantia’ (there is no will and no know heirs) it will be turned over to the Treasury Solicitor who will advertise for beneficiaries. If none are forthcoming probate genealogists will, at the risk of their own time and costs investigate, conducting a search to find all the possible heirs.

Due to increased migration Finders often find they are dealing with beneficiaries who are spread around the globe. They have recently dealt with cases from Ireland to Australia, but international work is made harder as resouces available to the heir hunter in the UK may not be available in other countries.

The US has it’s own particular problems due to a 75 year privacy rule and, in some states, the need to present original documentation to the courts. The 75 year privacy rule means that any of the deceased’s documents not already in the public domain can only be passed to immediate family for that time.

The destruction of personal records in the second world war, particularly in countries that had large Jewish populations such as Poland, presents its own problems. The international heir hunters work is made more difficult still by an increasing awareness of data protection and laws protecting personal information which vary from country to country.

So having people on the ground who know the local laws and keep pushing when it is particularly challenging to find documentation is where Finders worldwide network proves an invaluable asset.

The bulk of Finders clients are solicitors and the company doesn’t only offer them a service tracing beneficiaries. One additional service is will search. This involves following many lines of research to establish whether a will exists in a suspected intestacy case, or in other cases whether there is a more recent version of a will. This work can’t be done over the Internet and it is the expertise and persistence of Finders human resources that gets the results.

There is a lot of competition and a friendly rivalry between the bigger companies but Daniel Curran, Finders founder, has a very particular approach to the business. “We try to distinguish ourselves from other probate genealogy companies,” he says. “We are here to help busy lawyers, we provide them with a personal contact and work on an informal basis. We try to avoid getting wrapped up in legalese and get the job done as quickly as we can in a friendly fast and efficient manner.”

Finders has grown steadily over the last fifteen years, and their success in tracing missing beneficiaries has resulted in an ever increasing flow of work from solicitors around the country. Evidence that Mr Curran’s approach is working.

For further information and advice contact Finders

Daniel Curran
Written by Daniel Curran
Daniel is a leading figure in the UK Heir Hunting industry. He is from Isleworth in West London and has lived in London for most of his life. He has been in the probate genealogy profession since 1990. He formed Finders in 1997 after 7 years at another firm.