The Role of a Probate Genealogist?
Locating Missing Heirs
Probate genealogists use a range of tactics and tools to find missing beneficiaries. Methods include making local enquiries, searching the records for births, deaths and marriages, checking records held at libraries, archives and online, conversations with known family members or friends of the deceased and searching social media.
Resolving Complicated Family Situations
Probate genealogists have the necessary expertise to determine who is entitled to share in an estate in a complicated family. As blended families, adoption (both formal and informal), separation, divorce, remarriage, and step-relatives become ever more common, probate genealogists know how best to identify the correct beneficiaries to the estate in a sensitive and timely manner. Particularly if family members have become estranged or separated, it’s a good idea to use probate genealogy to help you identify and locate beneficiaries of the deceased’s estate, as it gives the peace of mind to determine that all known beneficiaries have been located.
Identifying Inheritance Rights
A key part of a probate genealogist’s role is to find missing heirs and then to prove their rights to the estate. This can be done in a number of ways, but normally consists of acquiring the necessary certificates of birth, marriage and death to prove the genealogical connection to the deceased and conducting research to establish that there are no more highly-entitled relatives. These claims are submitted, if necessary, to the Bona Vacantia Division of the Treasury Solicitor, the UK’s central repository of unclaimed estates. Genealogical reports, family trees and other products of probate genealogist’s expertise can also be used to prove this.
As well as finding missing beneficiaries, probate research can help to find missing assets. By conducting an asset search, probate genealogists are able to establish if any of the deceased’s assets are missing, such as property they owned, bank accounts or pensions. This allows the estate to be resolved in a timely fashion and in its entirety.
The Benefits of A Probate Genealogist
Access To Resources
When probate genealogists conduct research, it goes far beyond a simple internet search. Specialist probate genealogists take a strategic approach and using years of invaluable experience are able to make the most effective use of tools, contacts and specialist databases and records to reconstruct family trees swiftly and accurately.
Probate genealogy is a way to fill in any blanks when it comes to estate administration – by conducting professional research, probate genealogists can trace missing executors named in a Will, as well as find any missing heirs named in a Will or those identified as next of kin in intestate cases. Uncovering information such as misplaced assets and insurance details are also part of the vital work of probate research and probate genealogists are able to assist with this.
Collecting & Organising Documentation
In addition to carrying out genealogical research, probate genealogy involves organising any uncovered and collected documentation – this makes it far easier for the estate to be administered efficiently and according to the law. Estate administration is concluded far more quickly and accurately as a result.
By locating, identifying and confirming a missing beneficiary is entitled to inherit from the deceased’s estate, probate genealogists also help to resolve any family disputes. For example, they can confirm blood relationships or establish any gaps in a family tree, settling disagreements with the help of the law.
Knowledge Of Probate Law
As specialists in the niche sector of probate research, probate genealogists have extensive experience and knowledge of inheritance law. They fully understand the legal requirements of any given search and are able to correctly identify the heirs to an estate in line with the law of whichever country an individual died in. This ensures that all beneficiaries are correctly identified and verified, which speeds up the probate process.
Working With a Probate Genealogist
Choosing The Right Professional
Personal representatives – whether you are the named executor in the deceased’s Will or you applied for the role of administrator when the deceased died without leaving a Will it’s essential to carefully check the credentials of potential probate genealogists.
It’s important to understand the probate research professional’s track record, including the number of probate searches undertaken successfully, as well as the level of their expertise and ability to research not only in the United Kingdom but overseas. Making sure that they are in full compliance with privacy legislation is also crucial and it is worthwhile checking what if any professional accreditation they hold.
Before instructing the services of a probate genealogist, ask for a no-obligation assessment of your case. This should include their likely success rate and any possible difficulties with conducting the search and will enable you to make a decision based on complete information.
Explain to your potential probate genealogist exactly what you want to achieve from your probate research. It’s a good idea to set milestones too, to break down the stages of the search if your case is a complex one. Establishing what exactly you are searching for also allows your probate genealogist to assess the viability of your work more accurately.
Understanding The Fee Structure
Most probate genealogists offer an hourly or per-success payment structure. It’s up to you to decide which is the best option for you.
An hourly fee structure enables you to match the search level with payment, however it’s advisable to set a budget and milestones to prevent the hours increasing too quickly with little to show for it. Also keep in mind that this option comes with the risk of spending money but not finding any missing beneficiaries as a result.
Alternatively, you can agree a fee based on each beneficiary who is found and verified – known as a finder’s fee. Usually this is done as a percentage of the inheritance the beneficiary is entitled to. This option provides protection to the estate as payment is only made if the missing heirs are located and only at the point the estate is distributed.
Challenges Faced By Probate Genealogists
Every search is different, and some probate research is more straightforward than others. Challenges for probate genealogists include searches for beneficiaries in countries where the record-keeping infrastructure is sparse or non-existent, or in places heavily impacted by natural or human disaster.
However, probate genealogists are usually able to overcome challenges thanks to their contacts network and knowledge of probate law. They understand how local records are stored, can often speak the local language or know people who can, and have established relationships with archivists to access important data quickly and efficiently.
Using the Services of a Professional Probate Researcher Provides Protection
As personal representatives are legally responsible for the distribution of an estate, they must ensure all steps are taken to fulfil their duties. This means that if the next of kin is unknown or beneficiaries are missing, they might need to instruct a specialist probate genealogist to help. If any missing heir later made a claim against the administered estate for their share, the personal representative can be held personally liable to pay for this share.
Probate genealogists can make a massive difference in helping to locate, identify, verify and report missing heirs and beneficiaries of a deceased’s estate. By doing so, they not only ensure probate is carried out according to the inheritance laws, but they also save time and money and stress in the process.
Any missing beneficiaries delay the probate process and by using the services of the probate genealogy sector, you are far more likely to succeed in your search and bring matters to an end in a swifter and more complete manner.