Where to start when there is no Will?
Approximately 300,000 people die each year without leaving a Will; known as intestacy. If you know somebody who has died without a Will, perhaps a friend or neighbour, you may be wondering who inherits their Estate. Unfortunately, the answer is not a straightforward one, and this is where Probate Researchers, or ‘Heir Hunters’, come in.
The ‘Rules of Intestacy’ determine beneficiaries. The Administration of Estates Act 1925 lays out these rules. The first person to inherit is a legal spouse or civil partner. Their children are next in line, including legally adopted children (but not stepchildren).
If there is no spouse or children, next in line are living parents, and if both parents have died, brothers and sisters will inherit. Half-blood siblings inherit in the absence of any full-blood brothers or sisters.
If there is no spouse, children, parents, and siblings. The Rules of Intestacy go to grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, and even half-blood cousins. You can find further information and official guidance here https://www.gov.uk/inherits-someone-dies-without-will.
Understanding the Rules of Intestacy is vital to finding the correct beneficiaries. But the rules cannot be applied without a complete and verified family tree. Verifying a family tree is the only way to identify all correct relatives and beneficiaries.
There are several public genealogy websites such as Ancestry and Find My Past. However, using these sites without practice can lead to the wrong family tree and locating the wrong beneficiaries. Even professional genealogists cannot rely on them alone.
The next stage – Locating the Beneficiaries
From the complete family tree, you must find and contact the beneficiaries. Meaning you need to find their telephone number and address. The average case of intestacy has ten beneficiaries, but from our experience, it can range anything from 1 to 124. That is a lot of people to find!
The internet is full of sites that claim to give you someone’s contact details, but how do you know you have found the correct person? For example, if you are unlucky and looking for David Smith, you will find 6,163 options in the UK.
You will likely only have the beneficiaries’ first names and possibly their year of births. Finding heirs requires extensive knowledge and skills, which is why tracing agents and probate researchers exist. Without the right experience, techniques, and software, it could take days, weeks, months, or even years to find and contact the right person.
An Heir Hunter, otherwise known as Probate Researcher, will ensure that the beneficiaries are correct by conducting a thorough investigation. They will verify their research as they go by obtaining certificates and identification.
When choosing an Heir Hunter, make sure to check that they are legitimate and reputable. Finding and contacting beneficiaries must be done ethically and sensitively. Some Heir Hunters have made every effort to follow best practice methods in an otherwise unregulated industry. Blanchards are members of the IAPPR. The International Association of Professional Probate Researchers provides voluntary regulation to promote professional and ethical standards.
Unknown or untraced beneficiaries can claim their entitled share at any time. Whether at the time of death or ten years later. The personal representative is personally liable if they did not take the appropriate steps to find all the beneficiaries. Ensuring thorough genealogical and tracing research is therefore very worthwhile.
There are many different approaches to finding beneficiaries; depending on various complexities, including how common the names are, how old they would be, or whether they are UK-based or international. Heir Hunters have many tools at their disposal and will exhaust every possible avenue to trace the beneficiaries.
Once the research is complete, and if necessary, an Heir Hunter may recommend taking out Missing Beneficiary Insurance. This insurance protects against the risk of beneficiaries coming forward to make a claim later. An Heir Hunter can help obtain such insurance.
Finding beneficiaries can be extremely difficult when somebody dies without a will, known as intestacy. Even the most capable individuals can struggle due to the number of unknowns.
The rise of Probate Research companies, or Heir Hunters, has shown how important it is to locate the correct beneficiaries and just how hard it is.
Blanchards are happy to help if you know of a case of intestacy. To further discuss any of the above, do not hesitate to contact us.