Probate Genealogists

Identifying and locating missing and unknown beneficiaries for more than twenty-five years


Who We Are

What We Do

Specialising in estate matters involving missing or unknown beneficiaries and next-of-kin; Probate Genealogy combines the research skills of the genealogist; some aspects of private investigation; and an expert knowledge of estate succession and distribution.
The cases undertaken can range from the location of a beneficiary named in a Will, who has since moved, to the reversion of a life interest in a trust fund, or the resolution of a complex intestacy, involving perhaps more than a hundred individual heirs, in many different countries. Within this range, there fall many variations, each as unique as the individual families involved. Similarly, the values of the estates and the individual entitlements can range from tens to hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Informative Interview

Missing Beneficiaries

The majority of the matters we deal with, are concerned with the identification and location of blood-heirs to intestate estates. Every estate is as different as the families it concerns. In one case we may simply be looking for a sibling who has simply lost contact with the deceased’s family over the years; in another case, we might be tracing the descendants of a large Victorian family, leading to a hundred or more beneficiaries, spread all over the world.

With our experience and resources, we are able to provide effective and correct solutions to virtually all problems that may be encountered in an unknown or missing heir situation; locating the beneficiaries, or assisting with other solutions, such as indemnity insurance, where the problem is irresolvable otherwise. Additionally; following the location of the beneficiaries; we can provide administration support services, with regard to distribution account drafting and correspondence with the various heirs


Our Own Background

Although founded in 1991, Payton & Tate’s origins stem from June 1921 when, following his retirement from the Army, Lt Col Alfred Aquilla Smith established “The Advisory Agency”, at 8 Lower Regent Street, London. By July of the following year, he was working with the “Transatlantic Estates and Credit Company” of Portland, Oregon, investigating estates where the beneficiaries were unknown.

Alfred Smith died in 1930, following which the business was taken over by his son, Charles A V Smith who ran the firm, then named “Alfred A Smith & Son”, until his death. Initially concentrating on US estates, over time the firm had built-up reputation abd experience, additionally handling UK matters; to which emphasis shifted over time.
The transfer of the business to the then existing management team of Charles Payton (since retired from the practice) and John Tate, brought about the modernisation and expansion of in-house research and other services.

Coming up-to date; the practice is run by John Tate, who having joined Alfred A Smith & Son as a researcher in 1974, is one of the most experienced probate genealogists in the UK.



Professional Genealogical Research for Probate and Trust Professionals


Missing or Unknown Kin

Beneficiaries Identified and Located

Records and Documentation

'On the Record'

Business Meeting

Insurance Indemnities

Protection for Personal Representatives and Trustees

Other Services

How Can We Help?

Business Meeting

For Beneficiaries

Are You a Beneficiary?

  • ​You may be reading this page as the result of receiving a letter or email from us, indicating that you may be an heir in an estate. If you are, then we hope that you will find answers to any questions that you may have, within this website. However, should there be any aspect of our services upon which you would like further information, then please contact us.

  • If we have contacted you; it will be as a result of research that we have been carrying out, either following instructions received from an estate solicitor or trustee, or in connection with a matter that we are working on a speculative basis.

  • If we are instructed formally, then in most cases our fees will be paid directly from the estate or trust. Should we however be working on a speculative basis, we will at some stage need to address the method of our remuneration, should we be successful. This would normally be by means of a Contingency Fee, and further information in that regard is included below.


Instructed Fees

In matters where we are instructed directly by the Personal Representative or solicitors dealing with the administration of an estate; our fees and disbursements are paid from the estate funds, as part of the administration expenses.

In these cases; there are no fees or expenses payable or reimbursable to us, directly from the located heirs.

Informative Interview

Contingency Fees

​When we have contacted a potential beneficiary in an estate that we are researching on a speculative basis (usually, a matter referred from overseas), we will ask that beneficiary to consider signing a contingency fee agreement.

That fee agreement recognizes the work we have done in locating the heir and advising of the potential interest, and agrees that the heir will pay us only a percentage of any money that he or she might eventually receive from the estate. In that way, there is no financial risk to the potential beneficiary. Should the presumed heir not receive anything from the estate, there will be absolutely nothing payable to us.

The percentage fee we ask, is set to reflect the investment and high costs involved in dealing with speculative estate matters of this kind. It also takes account of the very high risk factor; given that many of the estates we research will prove unresolvable, for a variety of reasons. These can for example be estates where the deceased’s own parentage is unknown, through cases where there are no relatives of a close enough degree to inherit, to those where there eventually prove to be no assets in the estate.

Regardless of the outcome, all costs incurred by us in researching and establishing the families and heirs involved, are our own responsibility. There are no circumstances where these are charged to beneficiaries. Professional fees charged by solicitors dealing with the estate administration and other estate debts, are paid from the estate itself, in the normal way, prior to any distribution.

At the time that the estate is being distributed, our agreed fees would usually be deducted by the solicitor dealing with the administration, and the nett entitlement would then be sent directly to the heir.

The contingent percentage fee is often the only practicable method of remuneration in matters involving completely unknown kin and intestacy. In such cases there is often nobody authorized to incur costs on behalf of the estate to find kin, and without the involvement of Probate Genealogists on such a basis, the estate would most likely pass to the State. Such a fee ensures that the beneficiaries’ involvement is risk-free, and at the same time recognizes the value of the Probate Genealogists’ service, in facilitating a real benefit to the heir, that would not have occurred otherwise.


Contact Us

Payton & Tate
Kinedart House
New Barn Road

01474 878830

Thanks for submitting!

Casual Business Meeting

Family Relationship Chart

What exactly is a Second Cousin?
or a First Cousin Twice Removed?

Since 1992 we have produced our ‘Family Relationship Chart’, illustrating those relationships and their entitlement to share in an English or Welsh intestate estate.

Described by one succession law textbook author as “one of the clearest diagramatic charts ” he had seen, our chart has been widely distributed within the legal profession and continues to be referred to by many legal professionals, on a regular basis. Indeed, we still occasionally hear of copies of the original editions surviving in office desk drawers, more than twenty years on!

We no longer produce the chart as hardcopy – but a PDF version will be available for download shortly. (A .png version is included below, in the interim)



Terms of Use/Disclaimer

This Disclaimer governs the use of the paytontate.com Website. By accessing this Website, you agree to the terms outlined in this Disclaimer.

The information provide in this website is for your general information only and shall not be deemed or constitute legal advice. Detailed professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from action based on any of it. Payton & Tate accepts no responsibility for loss occasioned as a result of reliance placed on any part of the contents of this website.

Payton & Tate makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about any of the content of this website (including, without limitation, any as to the quality, accuracy, completeness or fitness for any particular purpose of such content); nor of any content of any other web site referred to or accessed by hypertext link through this website (a “third-party site”).

Payton & Tate does not endorse or approve the content of any third-party site, nor will Payton & Tate have any liability in connection with any such third-party site (including, but not limited to, liability arising out of any allegation that the content of any third-party site infringes any law or the rights of any person or entity).

Working Together


Unless otherwise stated, all of the content of this website is the copyright of Payton & Tate. Except as provided below reproduction of any of that content is prohibited.

You may download to a local hard disk and print extracts from this website only for your personal use. You may also recopy downloaded extracts to others for their personal use only. However, none of the content of this website may be copied or otherwise incorporated into or stored in any other website, electronic retrieval system, publication or other work in any form (whether hard copy, electronic or other), without our express permission.

Working Together


We use Google Analytics to analyse the use of this website. Google Analytics generates statistical and other information about website use by means of cookies, which are stored on users’ computers. The information generated relating to our website is used to create reports about the use of the website. Google will store this information. Google’s privacy policy is available at: http://www.google.com/privacypolicy.html.

Other cookies may be generated by the software that runs this site and may be used for storing preferences or other details. Any information collected in that way is anonymous and generalised and in any event, will not be passed-on to third-parties.

Further information about cookies, including how to remove them, is available from aboutcookies.org