Inheritance Crisis Looms as Local Authorities Work with Heir Hunters

In recent years, heir hunters have emerged to reunite people with their inheritances and manage the process accordingly. However, recent research from Anglia Research showed an inheritance crisis may be looming. This is because heir hunters are working with local authorities on anti-competitive, unaccountable contracts.

Anglia Research warned families face falling into long, costly legal battles over disputed inheritances. This is after research found local councils in England and Wales are ignoring Government guidelines and are entering into anti-competitive contracts with heir hunters.

The company surveyed local authorities in England and Wales to see how they dealt with the increase in people dying without a will and with no known next-of-kin during the coronavirus pandemic.

The research found that seven local authorities have written contracts with heir hunters. One authority in the Midlands confirmed it charges heir hunters for the details of each deceased person, or “lead”, the Council provides them with.

How the Possible Inheritance Crisis Could Impact Inheritance

Anglia Research explain: “Some contracts between an heir hunter and a local authority limit the scrutiny given to each case. Some unethical heir hunters use this to only identify easy to find heirs to an estate, collect their fee and forego the rest of the beneficiaries.

“Only 17% of local authorities said they have put in measures to prevent their employees from making under the table referrals to heir hunters. While 44 of the 348 local councils (12%) said they have policies which prevent unethical heir hunters overcharging beneficiaries.

“Only 4% of local councils which use heir hunters said they are considering how to improve their practices. Only six local authorities (1.7%) said they have implemented or are in the process of implementing a best practice approach to working with probate genealogists.”

Philip Turvey, an executive director at Anglia Research, commented on the potential inheritance crisis. “The industry has been dealing with a surge of unqualified and unethical practitioners ever since the Heir Hunters TV show sensationalised the work we do.

“As a result, we have seen a steady rise of anti-competitive contracts being signed between heir hunters and local councils, which may lead to several beneficiaries starting expensive, time-consuming court cases to obtain the inheritance they are rightfully owed.

“With the number of people dying without a will rising by 60% during the first lockdown, local councils need the support of trusted probate genealogists. This is to ensure that they distribute the deceased’s assets to the correct next-of-kin.

“The last thing they need in a time as busy and disruptive as this is an unethical heir hunter trying to enter into an exclusive contract that will ultimately only help them line their pockets at the expense of beneficiaries.”

If Someone Dies Without Making A Will

Usually when a person dies, their Estate is divided according to their Will. This means that their estate goes to who they want, how they want. If a person dies intestate, then laws known as laws of intestacy come into effect. These laws place relatives in a priority order of who inherits the estate, starting with the spouse. After the husband, wife, or civil partner, the order is:

  1. Children
  2. Grandchildren
  3. Great grandchildren
  4. Parents
  5. Siblings
  6. Nieces and nephews
  7. Other close relatives

When someone dies intestate, only a beneficiary of the estate can apply for the authority to administer the estate. This person will be known as the administrator of the estate. This is as opposed to an executor when there is a Will. The role of the administrator is very similar to the role of the executor.

If the person had no Will and you feel that they would have left you something if they had made a Will, then you may be able to make an Inheritance Act claim.

How We Can Help

Here at The Inheritance Experts, we work with solicitors who have years of experience in all manner of inheritance claims. This includes cases where there is no Will. So contact us by filling in our contact form. Or call us on to speak to one of our friendly knowledgeable advisors.

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