Finders International states the case for professional verification of next of kin when it comes to estate distribution
LONDON, Jan. 8, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Numerous cases of intestacy are being wrongly distributed every year, according to Ireland's leading probate genealogy firm.
Finders International warns that while solicitors assiduously check the identities of clients and look out for fraud and money laundering, shares in extremely high-value estates are still handed out to alleged next of kin who tell solicitors that they are the only close family or that no-one else is entitled to a slice.
The company's founder, Danny Curran who set up Finders in 1997 and who now oversees offices in Dublin, London and Edinburgh, says his firm has seen thousands of avoidable errors in distribution of estates. The company specialises in intestacy - where someone dies without leaving a valid will and there appears to be no next of kin.
"The consequences of errors in estate distribution are far-reaching and yet incredibly easy to avoid," he says. "We have seen undocumented next of kin coming forward, without the traditional proof of birth certificates showing their parents' names, but using DNA evidence, facial-recognition reports, and notes from orphanages."
Recently, the company worked on a case where they helped a client obtain an exhumation order. They were convinced by his story that he was the deceased's son but had no proof. The exhumation needed to wait until the summer as digging up a coffin in inclement weather can result in land slippage and have adverse effects on DNA sampling.
However, when the results came back, they revealed the client was "53 million times more likely to be the deceased's son than not". Recovery of the estate - worth nearly ?1 million - is currently underway.
Other claims to estates can arise from members of families who emigrated. The known family has forgotten (or deliberately 'forgotten') or not considered that these persons may have a claim to the estate, and so have not declared this information to the solicitor.
"In another case," Danny adds, "a Dublin solicitor referred an estate worth ?350k to us for checking pre-distribution. The solicitor's client said that they had two siblings and that their uncles and aunts had either never married or married but had no children.
"We investigated and found the client had nine siblings, rather than two, and that all the aunts and uncles had married and had children. Therefore, there were 26 heirs to the estate, rather than the three that had been mentioned initially."
Errors and omissions
The reliance on family testimony, without independent verification, to establish information about the devolution of an estate is clearly a path that leads to errors and omissions. But Finders International sees this happening frequently. Danny has lost count of the number of children, siblings, and half-blood siblings who have been overlooked or forgotten by clients when they refer cases to the company.
"It's not always deliberate," he adds, "families do lose touch, large families forget how many relatives they have, and children are born out of wedlock and to single parents."
He urges solicitors and others dealing with intestacy cases to use professional genealogy services for the best results. Many fee models exist, but reputable companies such as Finders International often use contingency fees - money deducted from shares due to unknown heirs where the existing clients pay nothing.
"Remember, checking the entitlements to, and distribution of, estates are complex tasks that should be handled as professionally as all other aspects of a solicitor's work."
NOTE TO EDITORS
Finders International is a probate genealogy firm that identifies and locates beneficiaries to estates, property, and assets worldwide.
An award-winning firm, they are sometimes referred to as 'heir hunters' following its numerous appearances on the BBC1 TV series, or in other countries, as forensic genealogists. They work with international attorneys, private client solicitors, other probate research firms, state and private trustees, deputyship, and conservatorship teams, and unclaimed fund-holders.
Recognised for decades as global experts in their field, the company traces missing beneficiaries and heirs worldwide.
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