February 2015

Continuation of Mark’s presentation from last month…

A solution where the genealogists’ fees may be an issue for the administrator is to work on a contingency basis, where any unknown beneficiaries that are traced agree a percentage fee with the genealogist. We were instructed on this basis to find heirs to an estate worth about £40,000. The solicitors’ client knew the deceased and had obtained letters of administration, however, the full extent of the family was unknown. After much work, we eventually traced over one hundred beneficiaries and the administrator’s share in the end was just 1/42 of the estate. No win-no fee contingency arrangements occasionally get criticised but the reality is virtually all probate genealogists offer to work in this way because it limits the genealogist’s fee while guaranteeing the case gets finished. Contingency not only protects the administrator’s share from genealogist’s fees; we have heard of a small estate largely consumed by the costs of genealogists who did not offer a contingency option.

In cases where there is a will, we can trace any missing legatees. A typical case may involve an elderly lady, recently deceased, who made a number of bequests to friends and family. However, her will was made in 1980 and correspondence to some of her legatees has been returned to the solicitor. It’s a classic type of case and our job here would be to establish whether the legatees have moved address or passed away, so to solve this case we would aim to either supply the solicitor with a new address or a death certificate.

We recently worked on a case where the deceased left half of his estate to “his nephews and nieces” in his will. We understand why wills are drawn up in this way since by not naming each of his siblings’ children, it includes those not born when the will was made. However, the deceased in this case had lots of siblings and the executor was not only unaware of where the nieces or nephews were but also of the extent of the family. Although we were able to gain valuable information from one of the nephews, we nevertheless had to compile a family tree and obtain a fair few certificates to establish the identity of the heirs.

To be concluded next month

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