Heir Hunters: What do they do, and do I have to instruct them?
Posted on 3rd February 2022
Everything you need to know about Heir Hunters and how they work, from our leading Wills and Probate Solicitors.
When a person dies with no close relatives and their estate is intestate (meaning that they died with no valid Will), quite often a company will be employed to ‘hunt’ down their remoter relatives, who have an entitlement to the estate under the rules of intestacy. A recent case, which involved tracing firm Finders International, saw six cousins receiving an inheritance of around £450,000 between them, after an estranged cousin died without a Will. The deceased owned a flat in London, and had cash assets which, on her death, was unclaimed. ‘Heir hunters’, Finders International, were instructed to locate the deceased’s family.
They discovered that the deceased had no spouse or children, and therefore it would be usual to look at surviving parents of the deceased, or siblings. Finders International discovered that the deceased was an only child, and her parents had predeceased her.
The next step would be for Finders International to trace the next class of people with an entitlement, namely aunts and uncles of the deceased (or, if they had predeceased with children, their children). Finders International discovered that the deceased’s father had three brothers, and her mother had three sisters and a brother. Whilst none of her aunts and uncles had survived, the deceased had six surviving cousins, two on her mother’s side and four on her father’s side.
It may seem obvious that each person would receive an equal share, however, it would depend on their parent. If each of the six cousins each had a different parental relation to the deceased, they would each receive a sixth share. For example, however, if three of the cousins had the same parental connection, they would receive their parent’s share divided three ways.
For example, this could be divided as follows:-
Each of the six cousins has an individual parental relation (i.e. six of the deceased’s uncles and aunts had one child). Each cousin would receive an equal sixth share of the deceased’s estate, totalling an estimated £75,000.
Two of the six cousins have the same parental relation (i.e. the same father, who was an uncle of the deceased). Three of the six cousins also have the same parental relation (i.e. the same mother, who was an aunt of the deceased). One has a separate parental relation (i.e. a mother, who was an aunt of the deceased). The sole cousin could receive £150,000. The two cousins could receive £75,000 each. The three cousins could receive £50,000 each. These are only examples, and many factors could affect the amount the cousins receive, including the inheritance tax payable (which on an estate of this value, could be 40% on any estate value above £325,000), funeral expenses, liabilities and other estate expenses, including the fee charged by Finders International.
What fee do ‘Heir Hunters’ charge?
According to Title Research, on average heir hunters charge 20% of an individual’s inheritance, although they go on to say that they have come across estates where the percentage charged has reached as high as 40%. Our expert Probate Solicitors at MG Legal have come across estates where the fee charged by the heir hunters has been lower than this, at 10%. The percentage charged may vary depending on many factors, including the size of the estate (i.e. the total value), the complexity of the estate (so the work involved) and potentially other factors.
Title Research themselves state that they believe the fee should be charged based on the work involved, not the estate value. You can find out more information on their page, here.
Do I have to appoint the heir hunters?
If you are approached by an heir hunter, do you have to instruct them to deal with the estate (or their associated probate solicitors)? No, unless you have entered into a contract with the heir hunters, you are in no way obliged to appoint them to deal with the estate. If you are approached by heir hunters and told of your entitlement to inherit under an estate, and in cases where you are told that you are one of the people who may need to administer the estate, you should seek legal advice from expert Probate Solicitors, such as our local solicitors, here at MG Legal.
How can I contact MG Legal and what are the fees involved?
You can contact our expert Probate Solicitors at MG Legal, here, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for a call back within one working hour. Our fees at MG Legal start from fixed fee probate applications at a cost of £650 plus VAT, and vary to full estate administration, which is charged based on the amount of work we carry out. Find out more about the fees payable on our fee page, here.
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