Millions of people worldwide die every year intestate, without making a will. These intestate estates leave substantial sums of money and property which, if not claimed, goes to the state. This has led to an industry emerging where organisations and individuals specialising in probate research trace missing beneficiaries to these estates. They are the Heir Hunters.
Unlike traditional genealogy - which traces family lines into the distant past - Heir Tracing concentrates on seeking living descendant relatives. These will often be people who have lost touch with their distant kin and in many instances will have no idea of the family link. The industry has attracted a great deal of interest since becoming the focus of the BBC Heir Hunters TV series.
When Heir Hunters discover someone who is heir to an intestate estate, not only does the news come as a pleasant financial surprise to the beneficiary, but it can also unlock valuable and interesting family history.
Beneficiaries to a large number of intestate estates remain untraced. In fact, the number of new cases being filed each week means there is plenty of work, provided the probate researcher knows where to look.
Beneficiaries who have been approached by Heir Hunters are sometimes confused about their rights and the risks involved. This concern has been heightened as a result of fraudulent ‘missing beneficiary’ emails circulating worldwide and care must certainly be taken to ensure that the contact is bona fide.
Members of the general public can seek out potential unclaimed estates themselves where they think they may be related to the deceased. Every week new estates are posted and some claims remain open for many years
The Heir Hunters Association provides support, knowledge and contacts worldwide to people interested in Heir
Hunting and probate research. They offer members a range of benefits including a regular free newsletter.
Their website can be found at www.heirhunters-association.co.uk