Working with Solicitors & Corporate Trustees

Private Client, Wills, Trusts & Probate Solicitors & Corporate Trustees

For over 25 years we have supplied genealogical reports to thousands of solicitors and legal professionals worldwide.

Missing heir identification and location

The core of our business has always been to identify and trace missing beneficiaries to estates, funds, property and other assets.

Our experience and global reach is second to none and our impressive track record speaks for itself.

We have won multiple industry awards and are founder members of the International Association of Professional Probate Researchers, which provides a self-regulatory framework and codes of conduct and ethics in an otherwise unregulated industry.

Probate Genealogy

Our profession is referred to as probate genealogy, probate research, forensic genealogy and we are sometimes referred to as “heir hunters”.

Using a wide range of data and resources we are often called upon to research a deceased person’s family tree to ensure an intestate estate passes to the correctly entitled next of kin.

Verification & due diligence

Even when a solicitor believes or has been informed that “all next of kin have been found” it is wise to seek independent verification.

We have encountered hundreds of cases over the years where closer kin have been overlooked or forgotten about. More remote kin may be unaware of the Deceased’s family history and whether or not they have living relatives who should inherit in priority under intestacy law.

For a modest fee, or in some cases free of charge, we can verify the family tree and confirm exactly who is entitled to benefit as well as identifying and locating any surprise missing heirs we find along the way.

Contact us for a free quotation or advice.

Finding missing beneficiaries

What executors need to know when a beneficiary can’t be easily identified or found

Executors have a duty to notify beneficiaries of their entitlement to a share of an estate, but what happens if a beneficiary can’t be easily identified or found?  Executors who distribute an estate without making reasonable efforts to find missing beneficiaries may be held personally liable if the beneficiary turns up later seeking their share.

Executors cannot be certain as to what a court would consider a reasonable attempt to identify or find a missing beneficiary. The value of the estate or gift in a Will is also a consideration and in general terms the higher the value of the inheritance the greater the lengths the Executors must go to in order to find missing heirs.

Reasonable enquiries

Where someone dies intestate and without any immediate family (such as a spouse or issue), intestacy law determines which relative or relatives would inherit the estate.

In Australia there are variations in State laws so it’s important to ascertain the Deceased’s state of domicile and apply the relevant laws.

Overseas fixed property will usually be subject to the laws in which the fixed property is based, adding yet further complications.

Identifying and locating next of kin can be a complex task, particularly if the Deceased was born outside Australia or their relatives live abroad.

In an intestacy has arisen through failure of all or part of the Will (the latter referred to as a partial intestacy), Executors need to consider whether the Deceased may have had children they didn’t recognise or ‘disowned’, but who might nonetheless be entitled to inherit.

Sometimes a Will directs the Executor to pay inheritances to the Deceased’s “issue” without naming anyone specifically. This means their children, or where predeceased, their grandchildren, etc. “issue” is therefore a class of beneficiaries who are directly descended from the Deceased by blood.

If searches reveal any named beneficiary has passed away before the Testator, the Will may include directions as to who else should receive the inheritance. If the Will does not contain any direction, the inheritance will be distributed under the relevant rules of intestacy.

Documenting research

Sometimes a beneficiary can be identified but may have become estranged from the Deceased’s family and cut off contact. In other cases, a person may have disappeared in unusual circumstances and it’s uncertain whether or not they are still alive.

Providing documentary evidence and reports of efforts made to find beneficiaries will always be vital, whatever the outcome of searches.

Avoiding liability

The best way to avoid issues and liability is to employ a recognised professional firm of probate researchers.

The genealogists will provide a fully documented report and details of their findings, which will support the Executors actions and help them avoid any liability should a missing beneficiary surface at a later date.

The genealogy report will also confirm who the correct beneficiaries should be and provide their contact details.

The genealogists report, insurance against a beneficiary coming forward at a later date and the placement of statutory notices will all assist in proving the Executor has acted reasonably and covered all bases in their searches for missing beneficiaries.

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