Report shows value of intestacies continues to rise

The Treasury Solicitor receipts from intestate estates almost doubled between 2011 and 2012 increasing from £17m to £33.5m.

It would appear that the individual value of the intestacies hasn’t increased but on their death the assets of an increasing number of people are finding their way to the Treasury or to the Queen via the Duchy of Lancaster or Prince Charles via the Duchy of Cornwall rather than to their natural heirs.

The root cause of this increase in the number of intestacies is people’s failure to make a will or to keep an existing will up to date when their circumstances change. This failure to plan or to keep those plans up to date means that the deceased’s estate will not pass to those they had intended to be their heirs and beneficiaries. This is compounded when relatives or executors are unable to find a will or when the named beneficiaries are predeceased.

But it is somewhat surprising that despite the publicity arising from the BBC Television program Heir Hunters, which follows firms of probate genealogists (like Finders UK) when unraveling intestacies, that those intestacies have increased by some 91%. One possibility is that many people don’t realise the value of their estate or believe it to be of too little value to make a will. However it is still worth the effort of making a will and thus ensuring that ones estate passes to those you wish to be your beneficiaries.

Despite this, almost one in six Britons are thought to be intestate. This continuing level of intestacy provides an ongoing opportunity for the heir hunters who investigate intestacies and attempt to find the legal heirs and reunite them with their rightful inheritance.

It is the investigatory process and the interest so many people have in family history, that has made the television program, now filming its eighth series so popular.  One representative of Finders UK said “Heir Hunters has helped with the job. When you knock on someone’s door and explain you are investigating an intestacy people who have seen Heir Hunters know it is legitimate and are more willing to let you in to discuss the matter, however the downside is that the business has become more competitive, but unfortunately many of the competitors are a one man band and do not have the resources or back up of an established professional firm.”

Visiting beneficiaries can occasionally be a tricky business but more often the potential beneficiaries didn’t know the deceased well and are delighted to discover that they may be in line to receive an unexpected windfall. The Finders representative went on to say, “Increasingly beneficiaries are clued up about intestacy and what probate genealogists do, they are happy to sign a contract with us as they appreciate the work we do to recover the estate on their behalf and this is in a large part due to Heir Hunters.”

Finders have been awarded the ISO 9001:2008 Total Quality Management certification and are the first probate genealogy firm to achieve the international version of this Standard as devised by the IAB (International Accreditation Board). Finders also provide missing beneficiary insurance, which protects trustees and administrators against the event of an unknown beneficiary emerging after an estate, has been distributed. As agents for Aviva they are regulated by the Financial Services Authority.

For further information and advice contact:
Finders, 6-8 Vestry Street, London N1 7RE 020 7490 4935

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.