The probate research (also known as Heir Hunters) industry is surrounded by questions and curiosity. This is especially prevalent for those who get contacted by a firm such as ourselves, having never been exposed to Heir Hunters before. Learning a bit more about Probate Researchers can only invoke trust and peace of mind in an unfamiliar industry.
What is a Probate Researcher?
In the most simple definition, a Probate Researcher traces heirs to an unclaimed estate left by the deceased. For instance, a distant uncle of yours may have passed away with no close family to claim his estate. The Government Legal Department then alerts a firm like us via the Bona Vacantia list to locate and contact the nearest living heirs. These heirs are called Beneficiaries to the estate. A Beneficiary is determined by the laws of intestacy of the country they pass away in. To learn more about the UK’s laws of intestacy please read our article here. Essentially if you are determined to be a Beneficiary, it is because there is no relative closer to blood.
Why do Heir Hunters contact you?
If a probate genealogist contacts you, it is because you are believed to be entitled to an estate. In many cases a beneficiary will not know the deceased, with them being very distant relatives or estranged from their family. However, there are some instances where it could be a close relative who has passed away, but due to circumstances you were not aware of their passing or unaware that you were entitled to their estate. There are of course instances where we may be incorrect in our research. With common surnames this can occur more frequently. However, certificates will clear up any false data and you will be informed.
How much do Probate Researchers charge?
We do not charge you. Instead we charge a percentage from the estate. This means there will be no point through the process where we ask for your payment. A percentage is agreed upon with you and taken from the value of the deceased estate. We have found ourselves to be among the most reasonably priced in the industry. In cases where there are multiple beneficiaries and some may have signed with another Probate Researcher, we will charge from each Beneficiaries share. For instance, if we have 3 of 5 beneficiaries signed with us we may charge 10% from each beneficiaries share. The Probate Researcher representing the other 2 Beneficiaries will charge from their estate retrospectively.
Are Heir Hunters regulated?
Nope, but… there is a voluntary regulation for Probate Researchers with the aim of promoting professional and ethical standards. This is called the IAPPR. Assure when signing with an Heir Hunter that they are a regulated member to avoid any posers and scammers which may use you as an opportunity to steal some money.
Should I sign with a Probate Researcher?
Yes. A solicitor will charge far more that Heir Hunters for administering an estate and hire Probate Researchers like ourselves to trace any outstanding heirs anyway. You can also deal with the estate yourself but if you are not privy to expertise and experience this can be endlessly complicated and stressful. There is also a far higher likelihood for mistakes which in turn can cause legal issues down the line.