Your Requirements  – The first thing to consider is exactly what assistance you need and the desired results. In addition to the standard genealogical services; this may include assistance such as searching for assets and arranging the sale of a property. It is much easier, and often more cost effective, for you to instruct a firm that is able to carry out all required services and support you throughout the entire administration process through to distribution.

Experience – The rise in popularity of genealogy, and the media focus it has attracted over recent years, has resulted in an increase in new small firms and enthusiastic amateurs offering these services. It is not only important that you choose a reputable firm that you can trust, but also a firm with the legal training and experience to handle even the most complex cases swiftly and effectively.

Regulation – When contemplating whether to engage a genealogist, consider whether they adhere to a set of industry standards. In response to the lack of regulation in the industry a new regulatory body was established in June 2016, the Association of Probate Researchers (APR).  The APR is a voluntary body which is regulated by the Professional Paralegal Register scheme. Members of the APR sign-up to a robust Code of Conduct with an independent complaints procedure and compensation scheme.

Research – A good firm will be set up to handle even the most complex research, whether in the UK or overseas. This should include the ability and willingness to contact potential beneficiaries or the skills to work on a ‘zero contact’ basis if you require. The introduction of online searches over recent years has undoubtedly made certain aspects of research faster. In order to ensure that all searches can be handled in such an effective and timely manner, it is worth selecting a firm with onsite libraries, resources and easy access to all types of records.

Credentials – Factors to consider are not only the size of the firm, to ensure they will effectively handle your case along with existing workload, and the age of the firm, to establish reliability and experience, but also the credentials they hold. It would be wise to instruct a firm that has achieved relevant security and quality standards through independent assessment such as ISO 27001 and ISO 9001. Your chosen firm should also have adequate professional indemnity insurance in place to cover the work that they do.

Quality Reporting & Support – In order to fully support you in the distribution of an estate, your chosen probate research firm should offer you a full report of their findings and a distribution schedule to aid you in the calculation of each heir’s entitlement. You may also require assistance in court; this makes a firm with a recognised expert witness a wise choice. It is also at this stage that you would look to use a thorough report to arrange insurances to protect yourself against unexpected post-distribution claims using an indemnity insurance policy. A good firm will be able to arrange these covers for you and should be authorised by the Financial Services Authority for the purposes of doing so.

Choice of Fee Structure – When you receive a quote for the work, it is important that you are given a choice of fee options so that you can remain in control and choose the right fee structure for your case. A firm that understands that each case is different, and provides a wide range of fee structures, will ensure that this will occur.