The likelihood is, in reality, very remote. Although there are thousands of unclaimed estates where a person has died without a will, you have only a slim chance of being an heir to any one estate.
It is only if you spot a name and known dates, which are familiar to you, that you have even a chance of a possible link to the deceased.
Do not expect a researcher to make a complex and speculative search just on the off chance – if your name is uncommon and matches the deceased, this may increase the chances of a link, but even then there is much work to be done.
Some estates are solved quickly, while others may take years to unlock. Even then, some estates may simply have no valid heirs and the estate passes to the Crown, who benefit from many millions a year. There is scope for payments to non-relatives under “discretional” rules if you had a close and caring relationship with the deceased; how this works can be assessed by contacting us.
Anyone who believes they have a claim against an estate held by the Goverment Legal Department (BV) may submit a claim. Normally they would have to prove a blood link to the deceased, usually sharing the same grandparents.
A successful claim, however, does not mean the claimant has a valid claim against the estate; even if they do, they may well share the estate with others, in some cases many others.
It is wise for you to be represented by an HHA/FPAR member, who can deal professionally with a claim on your behalf, as well as any others entitled.
No value is known of the estate until claimed. Risks are borne by the researcher if the estate turns out to be low with a large number of heirs. If you pursue a claim yourself and find it is low value, you could find yourself out of pocket, especially if you have had to buy expensive certificates and perhaps engaged the services of a lawyer or independent researcher. Our members work on a 'no win, no fee' basis, so it is win-win for you if you have an entitlement.
The time frames of claiming estates vary. Even after a claim succeeds, there is a process called administration which has many factors:
- Size of the estate
- Number of heirs
- Problems with tracing and proving/disproving all entitled heirs
Low value estates with few heirs can be finalised easier than higher value estates with many heirs – some of them perhaps in other countries – or where some heirs remain a problem to trace. The process will take 3-6 months at best and could take several years, so you must be patient and avoid hassling the administrator or researcher over time frames.
The world is full of scams and frauds, so you are right to be cautious – even of the first approach from one of our members, whether by telephone, letter or a personal visit. It is useful to involve other family members and close friends to help and offer advice.
The first move is to assess that the researcher is a valid member of either HHA or FPAR; they may have a logo on their letter heading and a website stating membership. If you still have concerns, then contact the appropriate organisation using CONTACT US on their website www.fpar.org.uk and www.hha-uk.com. We regret we cannot provide a telephone service due to the international nature of our business.
Some members of HHA are listed at www.hha-uk.com/support, but this is not an exhaustive list as entry is optional and many members are still developing their business.
www.fpar.org.uk lists ALL its members on its website.
When you make a FEEDBACK CLAIM using the form on the unclaimed estate page we automatically do this for you. If you have been contacted already by a non-member, we will tell you about any adverse issues and known trading practices that may influence which researcher (if any) it is best to go with.
No, mainly because membership of both HHA and FPAR is personal and linked to an individual, so there is no such thing as corporate or business membership.
Many members work alone, usually from home; others may work with a partner, often a spouse or business partner. Some have formed limited companies, which may have several directors.
However, owners, partners and directors of large firms may have membership in a personal capacity.
Using our members to act for you usually means a more realistic fee. As small businesses, they are below the VAT threshold and so do not have to charge you VAT. Rather than pay potentially 35-50% in fees and costs to large firms with massive overheads, you can enjoy an efficient personal service with a member at a fee of 20-25%, usually inclusive of costs.
Generally you will find our members and resesearchers are friendly and can provide a more personal service, many are not motivated by fees but in solving the challenge each estate brings, for them there is immense satisfaction, challenge and opportunity, they earn based on the quality of their service and talents.
Using the search form, first enter a surname or family name and see how many match, then review to see if any of the other facts match up, especially first names. You may be able to link to other information that is revealed by accessing a shortlisted estate – perhaps place or date of birth, marriage or death.
Part names are useful as sometimes spellings may differ, e.g. enter Clark to show any matching Clarke, Clark or Clarkson.
On selecting an estate, further details may be revealed, e.g. details of a possible husband or wife or other names the deceased person may have been known by.
If you get a lot of matches – usually because the name is common – try to add other search options to narrow the field.
Remember the name of the deceased may not be the same as yours. Check the maiden (birth) surname of any female family members, as their name will have changed and any children would have the new name too. Again, if any female children married as adults, another new name would be created.
People often change name, or children get adopted the problem of tracing people over several generations can be complex, professional researchers need CLUES and ANCHORS to trace relatives and in this case HEIRS.
Chances are the estate has been claimed by a blood relative, either directly or via a probate researcher. They need not have any entitlement to the estate, as a whole or part.
If you feel you have an entitlement CONTACT US and give us the details. We will assess the matter and may need more information such as dates of events (births, deaths, marriages etc) and full names of people. Especially useful is information on multiple marriages, adoptions and change of name by deed poll, if applicable.
Our initial advice is free and without obligation, and we are pleased to offer various options.
Once you have a shortlist, we suggest you write down the basic details and check any family history with other relatives, parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts.
If needed, make a further search and try to identify ONE target estate. Do not try to submit many claims via the site at random, as multiple submissions will be ignored. We do not have the resources or desire to make speculative research; even with sound intelligence provided by heirs and/or members of the public, tracing heirs can be a lengthy and costly process in time and money and the value of the estate is often small.
It costs you nothing to make an enquiry, but please be realistic with your input and expectations.
Dependent on our own findings, based on what you have sent us:
- We may telephone you to discuss the matter and ask more questions; we can then discuss options and the way we work
- We may advise you the case has been passed to a member researcher and who they are
- A letter will be sent if no contact telephone numbers are given, or following a telephone conversation
- You may be advised of the name of the deceased person or at least an indication; we cannot release too much information until you have agreed to be a client and signed a contract with a researcher
- At any stage you are advised to discuss the matter and options with close family, friends or trusted legal advisers (who may charge a fee)
- If you have birth, marriage or death certificates in your possession, you may be asked to scan and email copies or post copies to us; this helps verify the facts and prove/disprove specific links
- If you are being put forward as the CLAIMANT, you will be asked to also provide necessary certificates either as originals or authenticated copies, plus proof of identity and address (the researcher will explain how to do this and what is needed)
- If you do not have certain certificates, we obtain them direct as part of our service from official sources
The researcher (your agent) will keep you advised as matters progress.
HM Goverment Legal Department does not declare the value of any estate, so until a claim is accepted and an approximate value declared, any research and the process is potentially risky.
One heir is put forward as the claimant, although there may be many other heirs – some with different entitlements. For example, the deceased had 3 brothers, all of whom in this case would inherit the estate in equal shares:
- One brother is alive and takes 1/3 of the estate
- Another brother married, had 3 children and died young, so his share is inherited by his children in equal shares
- The other brother was alive when the deceased passed away, but has since died and left a will. His estate inherits his 1/3 share and the proceeds pass as directed by the will. If he died without a will, the rules of intestacy apply to his share (in order spouse, children, parents, siblings etc)
Some estates can become complex when heirs are cousins and several generations may be spanned, hence the need for professional research and representation.
Members work on a commission basis on a 'no win, no fee' basis. There are no advance fees and the commission is deducted from your inheritance (if any).
If there is no entitlement or the sum is very small, any losses are borne by the member researcher, so you never have to meet any costs.
Commission rates vary but are typically 20-25%. If the estate is known to be large with few heirs, then a better rate might be negotiated.
Our members are small firms consisting of one person or just a few people, so they are not VAT registered. This provides a further saving over larger firms, which potentially charge higher commission fees PLUS VAT.
We receive many reports of estates for recently deceased people who did not leave a will and have no obvious next of kin.
Our in-house research and administration teams can usually deal with such estates quickly and efficiently, avoiding the normal process via BV/TSol with associated fees and time frames.
Cases are typically referred to us by local councils, lawyers, accountants, estate agents, nursing and care homes, and friends and neighbours of the deceased. Estate values can be small or huge.
It is often possible to pay a referral fee based on the commission our research company receives from the estate, if this is practical for you or nominated charity or other person to receive such an incentive please advise when contacting us.
To refer a case to us, please use the CONTACT US form to tell us a little about the background to the deceased person and we can take it from there. Often we can refer the case to a locally based researcher to provide a more personalised and friendly service, although this may not always be necessary or practical.
The following services may be of help to you:
www.hha-peopletrace.org.uk is a fast, efficient and economic service that helps trace living people who are potentially heirs to unclaimed estates or are descendants to those that are or were.
http://www.hha-research.org.uk is the research arm of HHA run by Heir Hunters Researchers Ltd, handling a wide range of commission and fee-based cases for an expanding range of clients in the UK and internationally.
http://www.fpar.org.uk monitors the profession as a whole and welcomes complaints about standards, disputes and potential frauds by anyone whom you have dealt with or are dealing with over a possible inheritance.