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.
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'
Protection for Personal Representatives and Trustees
How Can We Help?
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.
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.
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.
Payton & Tate
New Barn Road
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)
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