1. How does intestacy work?

When someone dies without leaving a Will (intestate) their Estates are dealt under the Laws of Intestacy. In cases where the deceased has not instructed a solicitor or other, their affairs can be handled by local authorities at the time of death ie Coroner’s Office or local Council, whilst other assets can be with third parties ie banks, pension companies etc. These agencies have no powers to undertake work to identify potential beneficiaries and the assets can commonly sit with third parties or be transferred to the Government via the Government Legal Department.


2. What does a Probate Researcher do?

A Probate Researcher is primarily a Genealogist that specialises in deceased Estates. In intestate cases, the Researcher will create Family Trees, for both paternal and maternal families where necessary, to identify potential beneficiaries in line with the Laws of Intestacy.

This work can be undertaken on behalf of legal professionals for fixed agreed fees or on a speculative basis where Estates are held by third parties or the Government Legal Department. The Probate Researcher will locate all beneficiaries and then evidence and assist with the claim process right through to the distribution stage if required. Probate Researchers often undertake other areas of work related to genealogy such as family history, people tracing, asset research, and other investigation services.


3. Who pays the Probate Researcher?

Where this work is commissioned by a solicitor or legal professional the researcher will work for an agreed fee. In the matter of intestacy cases that are held by unrelated third parties, Researchers usually work on a “no win-no fee” commission basis. As this work is speculative, this approach removes all element of risk from beneficiaries plus eliminates the need for upfront investment in the research process and the acquisition of documents etc. This is particularly important when it is considered that beneficiaries may be numerous and not known to each other.


4. What are the timescales?

The timescales involved can vary considerably on a number of factors, such as; the number of beneficiaries to locate and liaise with, the time taken to prove the claim and general process timeframes.

The number of beneficiaries in any one case can vary from 1 to a considerable amount, 20/30+ is not uncommon and any number above is possible. Beneficiaries can be anywhere in the world and it can take a considerable amount of effort and resource to locate people; with this in mind, this work can take many weeks, months or even years to conclude. Naturally, it is in the best interests of the Researcher to bring matters to conclusion as soon as possible and they will be working towards this at all times.

The claim process itself can be lengthy if the historical documentation is scarce, patchy or erroneous. The Researcher will liaise with the authority holding the funds, addressing any issues and further enquiries, until the authority is satisfied that the claim is valid and acceptable. Once this is achieved, the process of obtaining a Grant (where necessary) and obtaining Missing Beneficiary Insurance etc will add to the timescales involved.

A single Probate Researcher can have a number of live cases and considerable amount of clients at any one time and it is largely not possible or cost effective to keep everyone updated. If complaints are received by FPAR it is usually relating to timescales or lack of information. Researchers are always happy to give status updates to clients and you should make contact with your Researcher in the first instance.