About Fraser and Fraser

1

Who are you and what do you do?

Fraser and Fraser is one of the leading firms of professional genealogists and international probate researchers, providing specialist research and support services to the legal profession. We trace missing heirs and beneficiaries to unclaimed estates when someone has died without leaving a Will (intestate), or when someone named in a Will cannot be found.

We also offer a number of other services, including asset and property management, share valuations and sales.

If we have contacted you and you are unsure why, please click here.

2

Are you on the BBC One programme, Heir Hunters?

We are one of the main firms on BBC One’s Heir Hunters, and have been featured since the first series. You can see some of our clips here.

3

How do you search for next-of-kin?

We use several different methods to trace people, including electoral rolls, birth, death and marriage certificates, our own databases and in-house historical books. You can learn more about our processes here.

4

As a beneficiary, can I have a family tree?

We send all heirs an outline family tree on completion of a case.

Family trees are usually given out at the end of a case. These are research trees, and so will not include female spouses of heirs or children of living heirs. All contact details will also have been removed.

Fraser and Fraser family trees are copyrighted and may not be reproduced or published elsewhere, including online.

5

Are you able to give legal advice?

Unfortunately, we are unable to offer any legal advice.

6

Another firm has approached me. What do I do now?

We welcome anyone who has been contacted by another firm to get in touch with us to discuss your case. If you have been contacted by us as well as another firm, please give us a call.

7

How did you get my details?

We obtain contact details through publicly available records. These include Census records, electoral roles, birth, marriage and death records as well as probates.  

8

Do you contact people via email first?

Our first point of contact is almost always over the phone or by letter, however; in some circumstances we may reach out via email, especially when the heir we are trying to trace lives abroad. If you believe we have contacted you by email, we recommend calling us to confirm it is a genuine matter. We also contact via letter and over the phone.

9

Is this a scam?

We understand that our correspondence may have come out of the blue, and the suggestion of ‘free’ money seems unusual, but we can assure you this is a genuine matter. We always welcome you to contact us directly so we can explain further and reassure you. It can also be helpful to speak to a solicitor – most reputable probate research firms are known to solicitors and feature regularly in the legal press as experts.

10

Do you have any job vacancies?

Please visit our Job Vacancy page for further details.

The probate research process

1

How long will the process take?

It’s very difficult to specify exactly how long the process will take, but generally, it falls within 12 and 18 months. We do, on occasion, have some cases which take much longer to process, such as School Sites or international work. Please see our timeline, ‘How long does probate take?’ for more information.

2

Can I meet you face-to-face?

We welcome anyone to come and visit our London office to discuss their case. Please call your case manager to arrange an appointment. In most situations, we can also arrange for a Senior Researcher or Case Manager to visit you at home if you so wish.

3

Who is entitled and why?

Under the Law of England and Wales, the deceased’s spouse, children or blood relatives who are descendants of the deceased’s grandparents on both his mother and father’s side of the family are entitled when no Will has been left. The intestate law in other countries can differ – please speak to your Case Manager for a definitive answer if this is the case.

4

How are estates divided?

A person’s entitlement is calculated in accordance with the Administration of Estates Act (1925), for estates where the deceased died in England and Wales. You can learn more about why family members do not all receive the same share of an estate here. The calculation method may differ if the deceased died outside of England and Wales. You can learn more here.

5

What is a Missing Beneficiary Indemnity policy and how much does it cost?

A Missing Beneficiary Indemnity Policy is a specialised insurance policy taken out to cover the possibility of more heirs or persons coming forward after the estate has been distributed. These heirs or persons may have a higher order claim on the estate and may have not signed an agreement at the time.

The policy covers the administrator/administratrix and heirs from financial loses that could result in such circumstances.

6

Are relatives by marriage regarded as next-of-kin?

Only blood relatives are classed as next-of-kin. Exceptions include: the spouse of the deceased, adopted children and may sometimes include illegitimate children.

7

Can I put forward a claim myself?

It is legally acceptable for you to carry out the research yourself and put forward your own claim to the deceased’s estates, but it is not always straight forward. As well as proving your own link to the estate, a substantial amount of research is required to demonstrate that you are entitled to a share of the estate.

It is a criminal offence for anyone to distribute an estate differently from the relevant laws.

8

Is there a time limit for a creditor to make a claim from an estate?

Yes – there is a time limit of six years from the date of grant, however; if a relevant Section 27 notice has been issued, the limit can be as short as two months from the date of publication.

9

Is there a time limit for an heir to make a claim on an estate?

Yes – under the Limitation Act (1980), there is a time limit of 12 years after the date the administration was completed. (ie. The final distribution – this is 12 complete years, so we count it as 13).

10

Is there a time limit to claim an estate back from the Crown?

The Government Legal Department have a limit of 30 years, although interest on the estate value will only be paid if the claim is within 12.

11

Is there a time limit in applying for a Grant of Probate or Grant of Administration?

Most often, the answer is no, however; if there is inheritance tax to pay, then the return must be filed within six months of the date of death before interest is charged.

12

How long do you have to contest a Grant?

You have six months from the date of the Grant, which is why we recommend that no distribution takes place until after this time period.

However, it is important to remember that this time limit does not cover fraud or distribution not in line with the Administrations of Estates Act (1925), where there is no time limit. The Limitation Act (1980) means there is a 12 year time period to contest a Grant should a Will be found.

The deceased

1

Who has died?

One of our Case Managers or Senior Researchers will notify you as to who has died once our initial enquires are complete.

2

What happened to the deceased's personal possessions?

In most cases, the personal possessions of the deceased are collected in and sold to enable an equal and legal distribution from the estate. It may be possible for you or other beneficiaries to buy specific items such as jewellery, at market value, or if the item has no value for you to have it. Fraser and Fraser will always try to ensure that photos are retained and shared between heirs. Please contact the administering solicitors as early as possible if there is something you would like to request.

3

What happened to the funeral of my relative?

When there is no one to take care of the funeral arrangements, the local authority steps in. A private ceremony can be funded if there are sufficient funds in the estate.

4

Where is the deceased buried or where are the ashes?

Generally, we are not told this information, but it can be possible to find out. This depends on how we have been instructed.

5

Can I get in contact with my extended family?

We can forward your details onto other members of the family at your request, however; under the Data Protection Act (1998), we are unable to pass those details directly to you. We are also able to forward letters on your behalf.

Inheritance, tax and costs

1

How much money will I receive?

We do not know the exact value of an estate until the administration process is complete. We do sometimes try to provide an estimate, but the final amount may change.

2

When will I receive my money?

Your inheritance will be distributed when the administration of the estate is complete. This often depends on the assets of the deceased. Please view our timeline, ‘How long does probate take?’ for more information.

3

Do I have to pay up front?

No, absolutely not – at no time will we ask for money from you.

If you are ever approached and asked for an advance payment to enable you to receive your funds, it is likely to be a scam.

4

Do you need my bank details?

No. The distribution is usually done by the administrating solicitor, however; should Fraser and Fraser be handling the distribution, we will ask how you would like to receive your inheritance. You have the choice of:

1) Local currency cheque
2) Cheque in pounds sterling or;
3) Bank transfer

5

Can I inherit debt?

In the UK, no, you cannot. A deceased estate is treated in a very similar way to an insolvent person – available assets pay off any bills and then the rest of the money is distributed to rightful heirs. If there is not enough money to cover the costs, the debt will be written off. This is true in almost all jurisdictions around the world.

6

How much are your fees?

This depends on the circumstances of the estate, how we have been instructed and what we have agreed with the administrator/executor. We believe our fees are fair and accurate to the level of work required.

7

How much do you get paid and when?

We are paid directly from the administering solicitor/attorney.

We get paid at the same time as you do, ie. At the end of the process.

8

Will it cost me?

It will not cost you anything personally as our fees are paid from the estate.

If we are paid on a contingency basis, then our percentage fee is taken from each person’s entitlement, not the overall estate. This is a proportion of what you receive, so you will always be better off. If we are paid via a fee basis, then it will come from the estate and not your individual entitlement.

The difference between contingency and fee based cases depends on how we are instructed.

9

Do I have to pay solicitors fees?

With all of our agreements, you will not need to pay us or a solicitor directly – these fees come out of the estate’s value. However, if you decide to consult a solicitor personally, this may incur a cost.

10

What will I owe you if I don’t inherit?

You will not owe us anything if the case turns out to be insolvent or you are not a beneficiary.

11

How much tax will I pay on my inheritance?

Inheritance tax in the UK is paid by the estate itself and not by the beneficiaries individually. For instance, if you inherit over the inheritance tax threshold, you will not need to pay tax on this as it would have already been paid through the estate. In other jurisdictions, you may have to pay income tax. A local accountant can advise you.


12

Will my inheritance effect my benefits?

This all depends on how much your inheritance is and what benefits you receive. It can also depend on your local council – it is best to approach them for advice.

13

Are there any interest payments on the estate?

The monies in the estate do earn interest and this continues to belong to the estate. The property and artefacts from the estate are valued at the time they are liquidated.

14

Will the administrator/administratrix receive more money than me?

Each person will only receive the share of the estate they are entitled to under the distribution rules governed by intestate laws. The administrator can reclaim reasonable expenses naturally incurred in dealing with the administration of the estate.