- Why do I need a professional probate genealogist?
- Why should I instruct Martlets?
- What qualifications do you have?
- Where are your researchers based?
- Should I instruct you on a fixed fee or contingency basis?
- What are the advantages of a contingency instruction?
- We dealt with the affairs of a deceased person whose will is now invalid. Can you assist us in tracing a relative to obtain a grant of letters of administration?
- Can you help me obtain a Missing Beneficiary Insurance Policy?
- What is your hourly rate?
- Can you obtain certificates and court documents on my behalf?
- Who regulates probate genealogists?
You may be handling the estate of a person who has died intestate, or you may need to trace beneficiaries named in a will. Where there is any doubt at all about the extent or whereabouts of entitled kin, or the information provided by family members is incomplete or uncertain, the services of a professional probate genealogist can enable you to distribute an estate knowing that all necessary avenues of enquiry have been undertaken.
We will provide all the research and case management abilities you would expect from our years of service as professional probate genealogists, without the costs associated with working in or near central London. Historically, most firms were based in London to enable easy access to the Public Record Office and to the indexes of Births, Marriages and Deaths. Most of these facilities are now closed and whilst we maintain a presence in London for access to certain records, such as those held at Kew and the British Library, we find that we can work just as effectively from our bases in Kent and Merseyside. Without the considerable overheads of London living, we have been enabled to pass on the savings to our clients in terms of our hourly rates. Your case will always be managed by one of our directors from your point of instruction through to conclusion and you will be provided with the attention to detail and personal service that you would expect from a small company.
Probate genealogists are not subject to formal examinations or assessment and anybody can claim to be one. The need to have a thorough knowledge of the laws of intestate succession and to be able to trace the current whereabouts of living beneficiaries, makes our profession distinct from traditional family history work, ancestral genealogy and heraldry. As in many other walks of life, there really is no substitute for solid training and experience in our field and all three of our directors trained with large companies and have been professional probate genealogists for nearly twenty years. They also have the benefit of having learned their trade and honed their genealogical skills before the advent of genealogical search engines (which whilst they may complement current research methods, are no substitute for genealogical insights and skills gained over twenty years).
All of our full time research team is based in the south east and the north west of England. We firmly believe that thorough training and experience is the key to success in our type of work and part of this is a comprehensive knowledge of the geography of the United Kingdom and of British migration trends. Only experienced researchers have the forensic eye for detail and the genealogical instincts honed over many years, required to undertake this sort of work successfully. We do of course make use of vastly experienced agents when research is required in other parts of the world and are particularly proud of our associations with colleagues in Scotland, Ireland, Canada, USA and Australia.
We can offer a fixed fee or a contingency option to enable you to distribute your estate. The fixed fee option is charged at our very competitive hourly rate to a pre-agreed budget and this option is suitable for all scenarios. The contingency option may be a solution for cases where a large amount of research is required to finalise an estate, especially where funds in the estate are limited.
Contingency instructions mean that we work entirely at our own risk and expense, and that you (or your client) are not charged for our services. We are paid a percentage of the share received by the beneficiaries traced by us, subject to their agreement. We are aware that several firms of probate genealogists also offer the contingency option and yet we sometimes hear the opinion that this is not an ethical way of working. With a proper restraint on fees charged, that is, where fees are proportionate to the work involved, we believe that working on this basis is fair to those charged with handling an estate, especially where the funds involved are relatively small, and it also provides a no risk solution for beneficiaries to submit their claim to estate administrators who would otherwise be unaware of their existence. We have never (and will never) ask a beneficiary for a commission in excess of 25% (plus VAT) and our fee in most cases will typically vary between 10% and 20%, depending of course on the amount of work likely to be involved. As a matter of course, we contact beneficiaries by letter or occasionally by telephone, the latter usually in cases where we need to verify that we have traced the correct family. Beneficiaries are always given as much information regarding their potential claim as is practical and are advised in our agreements to seek legal advice should they so wish. By working in this way, we allow potential beneficiaries time to absorb our correspondence and to consider our proposals at length, especially as our letters can be of a very personal nature, for instance, in cases where the deceased is known to them.
We are very happy to assist in these circumstances at no risk to you. Our aim would be to locate one or more entitled relatives in order that you may take forward the administration of the estate on their behalf. We would normally research these cases on a contingency basis, meaning that you would not be liable to us in any way if we are unsuccessful in tracing kin. Please contact us for further details.
We believe that Missing Beneficiary Indemnity (MBI) insurance is a necessity in the finalisation of the vast majority of intestate estates, particularly those that are shared amongst cousins of the deceased. In the past ten years, information obtainable on the internet has expanded beyond expectations and it is possible to obtain access to records previously unavailable. Cases that may have been impossible to resolve ten years ago may be solved today and likewise a line on a family tree that is resistant to research now may yield to further research in the future. There will occasionally be cases where we are unable to access records in order to complete a case: certain countries such as Australia, USA and Canada have strict privacy laws and restrict access to genealogical data (even here the access previously enjoyed by professional genealogists to birth records from 1960 onwards is being curtailed); family lines that have emigrated may belatedly contact family members; the deceased may have had a secret ‘love child’! It is for all these reasons and more that we always recommend that intestate estates are protected with MBI insurance and our genealogical report will enable you to apply for your policy confident that a professional firm has undertaken all of the necessary investigations.
We do not publish our hourly rate on the website for commercial reasons. However, if you wish to contact us we would be delighted to provide you with further details of our standard rates and our tariff for services such as obtaining certificates and probate documents. As a small but vastly experienced company, we believe that our hourly rate is extremely competitive and provides exceptional value for money.
We are pleased to obtain copies of birth, marriage and death certificates for you, as well as copies of wills, letters of administration and decrees absolute. We will action your request within 24 hours of your instructions and can offer a number of services reflecting the urgency of your request. Please contact us for more details.
Unfortunately, there is no regulatory body for probate genealogy firms such as ours. Some genealogists are members of associations, but these are generally aimed at individual genealogists rather than for companies specialising in probate genealogy. Martlets along with other firms would welcome a regulatory body or specialist association for probate genealogy in order to maintain professional standards, and in 2007, we contacted the Office of Fair Trading for their advice. Although our industry is too small to merit professional oversight, our best hope of regulation would be to form our own association and to establish a professional code of conduct. We hope that such a charter may be established in the future and in the meantime, we believe that our record of providing a quality service to our clients and beneficiaries speaks for itself.