• John Tate

"Heir Hunters"

The phrase “Heir Hunters” entered the UK’s TV viewers’ vocabulary in 2007; with the launch of a “fly on the wall” series following various firms of “Hunters” trying to locate and secure fee agreements from beneficiaries, in the highly competitive “Bona Vacantia” field.

We have been asked to participate in a number of television programs over the years. We have always refused to do so – on the basis that we are dealing with real people, real relationships and real death. We do not believe that to be an entertainment.

One consequence of increased awareness of our profession, has been an “explosion” of new firms and individuals setting-up as heir hunters – some unfortunately without any prior experience or knowledge of inheritance law or estate administration. Consequently, the dain an unregulated profession it is all too easy for mistakes to be made; with sometimes devastating financial implications. Examples we have come across include errors in calculating entitlements, inadequate research failing to identify beneficiaries and even failures to look for additional kin, beyond the first.

None of this however is to suggest that all ‘new-entrants’ to the field of probate research are deficient in such ways. It does however help to illustrate the value of knowledge and experience in an unregulated ‘profession’ where one day you might have virtually zero knowledge of (say) entitlement on intestacy and the next, you are advising on the distribution of a multi-hundred thousand pound estate.

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