The Future For Heir Hunters – Probate Detectives Chasing Unclaimed Fortunes

For many, the role of an Heir Hunter is one of sitting in front of a computer tracking down lost beneficiaries to fortunes left by relatives who died without making a will and sharing in each fortune by way of commission.

TV programs which highlight the work of such people such as the BBC’s “Heir Hunters” program which has already run to three series does much to glamorise the profession which some see as seedy and reeking of doorstep salesmen.

The job of a Heir Hunter is to track down living blood relatives of the deceased – who died intestate, which as a consequence means their assets will go to the Crown after 12 years if not claimed by the deceased’s next of kin.

Operating on a “no win, no fee” basis Heir Hunters risk their time and money in chasing beneficiaries in a highly competitive market. Chances are they may be “pipped at the post” by another Heir Hunter who makes a valid claim first.

The value of estates may vary from a few thousand pounds to many hundreds of thousands, and occasionally many millions. Beneficiaries may collect the lot, or share the booty with other relatives, who to each other are potentially total strangers.

The long term prospect for Heir Hunters is good, as society is changing making finding heirs to lost estates more complex and time consuming. Heir Hunting requires tactical skills, ingenuity, creativity, tenacity and a host of other aptitudes to track down errant beneficiaries potentially worldwide.

1. People are marrying less and often live with a partner who has no legal rights of inheritance. If you live with a partner who has not made a will chances are if they die their living relatives would collect any assets unless jointly owned.

2. Children in a typical modern family unit often have different parents due to previous relationships and marriages of their current parents. Tracing children’s births often reveals unknown fathers, bringing some claims to a dead stop as certified proof of relationships are vital when claiming intestate’s estates.

3. Travel, immigration and migration across the world is easier and cheaper, as well as offering new opportunities. The result is beneficiaries now are potentially spread around the world, adding to the time and cost of tracing them to enable them to inherit monies unexpectedly.

4. Thanks to better health care, nutrition and improved living conditions people are living longer. Chances are people dying intestate will be a lot older 70,80,90 even 100+ and their descendents may have grown another generation, thus increasing the number of beneficiaries.

As things are heading when people are living to 150 their family tree may well spawn hundreds of beneficiaries, but on the other side of the coin these beneficiaries may be impossible to trace due to the lack of proof.

Improvements in web based and computer records are helping trace people faster and cheaper than ever before, but a considerable amount of management of data is required to find the correct people and prove their inheritance via official records.

5. Young girls are having babies in and out of wedlock – in their teens rather than twenties or thirties and this adds to the difficulty of tracing beneficiaries. Where male beneficiaries become fathers early on, and later go on to marry a different partner and have more children!!!- confused already?

The charges made by Heir Hunters vary and the unsuspecting beneficiary may end up signing a major part, indeed potentially all of their inheritance away to a Heir Hunter, although in the main charges range from 10-30% of the estates value.

Being approached by a Heir Hunter requires composure and the need to assess the value and cost of a “finders fee” contract offered. Heir Hunters are fulfilling a vital need in ensuring monies are reunited with next of kin rather than end up with the state for the sake of a little ingenuity in tracking down rightful heirs. Maybe a Heir Hunter is in your street now, looking for you!


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