What do heir hunters do – and why? hunters

The BBC program “Heir Hunters” has glamorised what is, in fact, a very painstaking and unglamorous profession. Every year, thousands of people in the UK die intestate, often leaving substantial estates which, if unclaimed, fall into the possession of the state. The role of probate genealogy researchers, or detectives, is to track down missing beneficiaries who may benefit from inheritance.

This is done in various ways. They may be approached by the next of kin, who want to make sure there are no other living relatives who may suddenly turn up to stake a claim in the estate. This is not as tacky as it sounds – there have been cases of fraud, where people have turned up with fake “evidence” of entitlement which they don’t, in fact, have. Usually, these people trawl the public announcement pages of newspapers looking for intestacy cases. Using a team of heir hunters prevents this from happening.

In cases of intestacy, solicitors and probate genealogy teams work together to hunt down possible missing heirs. In other cases, it’s the executor of the estate who asks for help – usually because beneficiaries who have been named on a will cannot be found. The will may have been unchanged since it was first written, many years ago – and time marches on. It is up to the probate genealogy detectives to see if the beneficiary is still alive – or has passed on themselves.
There are a few probate detectives out there who don the trilby and trench coat, and go out actively hunting down lost heirs from clues they’ve picked up in the press – but they are rare, and mainly the stuff of TV programs. In reality, companies like us at Kin are nearly always approached by clients who give us as much information as they can to help track down those elusive missing heirs.

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