January 2015

Happy New Year from the team at Martlets!

The following is an edited transcript of the presentations given last year by our director Mark to the East Liverpool Business Forum and the Non-Contentious Committee of Liverpool Law Society:

In an ideal world, you would never need a probate genealogist. Firstly, all of your clients would have made a will. Where a will had been written, it would have been regularly reviewed to ensure that it was fully up to date. The executors would know who all of the beneficiaries are and where they live, and provisions would have been made in the event of a legatee dying. However, even with the best will in the world, family and friends disperse over the years and people pass away. And even with encouragement from a solicitor, keeping wills up to date is not a priority for many people. They after all will not be the people ultimately dealing with their estate.

So, what can a probate genealogist do for you? Primarily, we can make sure that intestate estates are properly distributed and, where there is a will, we can trace any missing beneficiaries. You will know the potential repercussions of an intestacy where next of kin are missing or the extent of the family is unclear. An estate could be sued by a beneficiary coming forward for a period of twelve years after the grant of probate, so our aim is to keep your estate non-contentious.

Aside from missing beneficiaries, another danger is to distribute to heirs who aren’t entitled. We were referred an intestate estate where the deceased had several siblings, two of whom had died leaving children who needed to be traced. We usually start any case by obtaining the birth certificates of the deceased and the people we are trying to trace and in this case, things didn’t seem quite right. In fact, we discovered that the two deceased siblings were of the half-blood, meaning that their children were not entitled and leaving us with no kin to trace! However, our work ensured that the estate was properly distributed to the deceased’s siblings of the whole blood and also spared the estate unnecessary research costs.

This case illustrates a common problem we encounter, that of a solicitor accepting the word of their client concerning the extent of a family. Unfortunately, we have assessed several cases over the years where the administrator of an estate has not authorised us to proceed with research when we advised that there were likely to be other beneficiaries entitled. Perhaps this was to avoid research costs or, slightly more cynically, so the administrator could secure a larger share of the estate for themselves. Either way, we can only make recommendations and hope that the solicitor adequately indemnified themselves from the consequences of a beneficiary coming forward in the future.

Part two to follow next month…

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