Case Scenarios

Are you:

A solicitor or administrator dealing with an intestate estate?

Missing beneficiaries or unsure as to the extent of the entitled family?

In this age of family separation and emigration, you can’t expect your client to know the family history of a relative who has died intestate. You don’t need to rely on a beneficiary’s memories and maybes. As a professional and friendly team of probate genealogists, Martlets can research the full family tree, enabling you to distribute your estate with confidence.

To avoid exposing your firm or your clients to claims from unknown heirs after the estate has been distributed, let Martlets ensure that all entitled kin are identified and found.

The cases below are examples of the diverse type of work that we undertake, reflecting a variety of circumstances.  Confidentiality is very important to us and for this reason no names are mentioned.

CASE 1:  an estate in limbo

We were asked by a firm of solicitors to investigate the estate of a person who had recently died, leaving no immediate family and no known will.  The matter was effectively in limbo and as is often the case in these situations, neighbours were becoming increasingly concerned about the security of the deceased’s property. One of them subsequently approached the solicitors for advice concerning the situation.

Since there was no family member in place to make a formal instruction, we undertook to trace any entitled beneficiaries entirely at our own risk and expense (on a contingency basis).  We successfully traced a first cousin (who had not seen the deceased for many years) and introduced him to the firm of solicitors who could then apply for letters of administration on his behalf.  Whilst the estate was being administered, we traced the remaining thirty or so entitled cousins throughout the world, including a famous comedian.

When it comes to intestacy matters, a family tree must always be accompanied by a strong report detailing all the searches and enquiries that were undertaken. In order to finalise any intestate estate, we always recommend to the administrator that a missing beneficiary insurance policy is obtained. A detailed and thorough genealogical report is your means to acquire this.

At Martlets, we are not simply heir tracers but professional probate genealogists, with sixty ‘person years’ experience. Our comprehensive reports on our work reflect our experience and training.  We provide stem by stem analysis of our research, enabling an estate administrator to apply for a missing beneficiary insurance policy confident that professional and thorough research has been undertaken.

In this case, where most of the beneficiaries had not seen the deceased for many years, our research was vital to complement their memories of the family tree. Having traced all entitled heirs and submitted a full report on our work together with the family tree, the estate was finally resolved to the benefit of all parties.

CASE 2:  success at our fingertips

Our clients were tasked with distributing an estate according to the provisions of the deceased’s will. Unfortunately, two of the beneficiaries had moved since the will had been drafted and their current addresses were unknown. With our experience, a case like this can be resolved faster and more economically than you might expect.  By making use of our extensive range of databases, we were able to trace the beneficiaries concerned on the day of instruction and below our original estimate.

CASE 3:  where there’s (not) a will…

We were referred a case by solicitors where the deceased, their erstwhile client, had left a will but all legatees had predeceased her. Only her married name was known and there was no information available regarding her family.

Through local enquiries, we were able to ascertain the deceased’s maiden name, even though she had married in the Middle East. Further research revealed that she was born in Africa, the daughter of a Scottish civil servant. Through  shipping and emigration records we discovered a family address in Scotland and with the help of our associate there, we were able to establish the full extent of the entitled kin.

We subsequently discovered that the rest of the family emigrated to the United States of America and using agents in various states across the Atlantic, we were able to locate their descendants. The end result of our extensive research was a genealogical report and family tree which allowed the solicitors to distribute the estate, to the benefit of all concerned. It was satisfying to know that we had enabled the solicitors to finalise their client’s affairs and it gave us great pleasure putting the family back in contact with each other after thirty years.

CASE 4:  finding positives in negatives

We investigated the estate of a gentleman aged in his late eighties who died intestate in Yorkshire, leaving an estate in the region of £25,000.  Having undertaken numerous enquiries and searches (and purchased many birth, marriage and death certificates), we established that the deceased was a bachelor, predeceased by his only two brothers, one of whom died in infancy, the other being, like the deceased, a bachelor without any known issue.

Our next step was to trace the marriage and death certificates of the deceased’s parents in order to establish that neither had married more than once.  Having confirmed this, we researched the families of both the deceased’s parents in order to trace potential maternal and paternal cousins.  We established that the deceased had nine aunts and uncles (which is actually quite a small family for a person born in 1920).  In similar cases we have in the past been faced with the task of locating many entitled beneficiaries but our research uncovered just seven entitled heirs in this case.

The challenge for us in this estate was in finalising the family tree and establishing as far as possible that there was no extant kin on certain stems.  In order to do this it was imperative that we undertook extensive searches of births, marriages and deaths for aunts, uncles and cousins; that all death certificates and probate records were obtained and that all relevant birth and marriage certificates were examined.

The strength of a professional report is often in these ‘negative’ searches, in other words, research that establishes to the satisfaction of the estate administrator (and the insurer) that a family member has died without leaving any children. Our eye for detail and our genealogical insight, honed over many years, enables us to set the correct parameters to employ in these searches.  We do not rely on search engines to undertake ‘negative’ searches and wherever possible we search in the original indexes.

Our work completed, a missing beneficiary insurance policy was obtained by the administrating solicitors on the strength of our report and the estate was successfully distributed to the seven cousins of the deceased.

CASE 5:  the Maple tree

The deceased in this case died intestate in Canada, a widow, leaving an estate in the region of C$40,000. This matter was initially dealt with by the Canadian authorities, who placed notices for any entitled relatives to come forward. Together with our Canadian associate, we were able to trace three cousins living in England who engaged us to present their claims to the authorities. Such cases require a thorough investigation of all potential lines of entitlement in order to present a fully documented and sworn family tree, demonstrating that the claimants are the sole beneficiaries entitled. As a result of our investigations, the authorities accepted the conclusions of our research and the resultant outcome was a successful distribution of the estate to the three cousins.

CASE 6:  a Liverpool intestacy

The deceased in this case died intestate, a spinster, aged in her late 90s in Liverpool. Our initial research revealed that the deceased’s only sibling had predeceased her, without leaving any issue.  Having also ruled out the existence of siblings of the half blood, we researched the families of her many paternal and maternal uncles and aunts. We traced entitled beneficiaries on one line of the family but their relationship to the deceased being remote, they could not provide any information about the rest of the family.

The deceased’s parents were born in the 1870s and both had siblings who were born prior to 1860. Although the estate funds were modest (in the region of £25,000) it was necessary for us to investigate all lines on the family tree to ensure that all those entitled to share in the estate were found. In the end, we traced almost one hundred beneficiaries and spent many hundreds of pounds on certificates in order to prove their entitlements.

Although this was by no means a profitable case for us, it was ultimately satisfying. We overcame so many challenges to trace the entitled heirs, demonstrating our professionalism and commitment to seeing a case through, even when it is not financially advantageous for us.