A recent case that was completed by professional probate genealogy company Finders UK, showed the perils of amateur genealogy not only when trying to trace missing heirs to an intestacy but when organising an extended family reunion.The deceased had left no will so their estate resided with the Treasury Solicitor and would have been lost to the heirs if Finders hadn’t picked up the case. Finders took on the risk of tracing the missing heirs and conducted thorough research that involved building up a comprehensive family tree, which showed that branches of the family had emigrated to Canada and New Zealand and members of the family in those countries were potential beneficiaries.

As Finders has an extensive international network they were able to trace the beneficiaries in Australia and New Zealand but when they contacted a UK beneficiary they were in for a surprise. The UK beneficiary was interested in genealogy and had put together a family tree which also had branches abroad, but lacking the detailed databases available to a professional heir hunting company and failing to fully establish the facts, the beneficiary had identified the wrong families!

Not too much of a problem one might think, except they had arranged a family reunion which their incorrectly identified overseas relatives had travelled half way around the world to attend. Finders were able to reunite the UK family with the correct branches of the their family abroad while at the same time informing them that they were heirs to the intestacy and working on their behalf to recover and distribute the estate.

It’s not just incorrect genealogical research that can cause problems; family fables are never to be trusted either. The story of the uncle who keeps a pile of cash under his mattress or the relative who moved abroad and made a fortune usually turn out to be exactly what they are, fiction.

In another case, Finders were told by all the other heirs to an intestacy that one aunt, whose branch of the family who were still to be traced, had definitely moved to the USA after the Second World War as a GI bride. Finders US partners conducted more research but could not trace the aunt or her family, so Finders searched in the UK and discovered that the aunt had indeed moved to Boston after the war but Boston in Lincolnshire not Boston Massachusetts! Once again Finders were able to reunite the branches of the family with each other and with their rightful inheritance.

Errors such as these can have greater consequences than a long haul journey to share a vol au vont with a stranger, or the busting of a family myth. Distributing an estate to the wrong beneficiaries, or missing out an entitled heir is a serious business. The amateur needs to be aware of the potential consequences and would do well to let the professional heir hunters do the work and take the risk, not least because any reputable heir hunting company will carry missing beneficiary insurance to cover the remote possibility of them getting it wrong and failing to identify a missing heir.  An established professional probate genealogy company, like Finders will also have an international network of experts who will be able to find out more information in their own countries than the amateur can from home.

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.

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.