How do I know it’s not a scam?

At Fraser and Fraser, we take pride in ensuring our services are delivered to you with clarity, following transparent, precise procedures whilst keeping you in the loop. That’s because we understand the need for reassurance when it comes to probate research.

If you have been contacted by a firm of heir hunters and you’re unsure whether it’s an honest attempt or a scam, we’re here to help. There are a number of small firms that pop up from time-to-time as well as one man band genealogists who may not have the same level of expertise as a larger probate research firm. The most important thing is that you are not signing anything that may cause you problems later.

THE MAIN FACTS

You should never be asked to pay any money up front

Usual fees on domestic cases are between 5% and 25% – the difference depends on the case itself. Around 1/3 of all cases charge 15%

It is important to ensure you are signing only for your share, and not for the whole estate

It is also important to double check that you are signing for the net amount you will receive, and not the gross amount

You should never be asked to supply documents apart from I.D, but do remember that the Government Legal Department (formally Treasury Solicitor) does not pay out by cheque. Never give out your card details!

You should not be asked to pay for the purchase of documents, such as birth, death and marriage certificates – this is what the company are being paid for!

There should be no expenses on top of the percentage agreement you are signing if there is just cross it off

You should never be asked to deposit any money in an account to test a transaction – this is most likely a scam.

Things to look out for

Check the details of the firm

Have they got a land line?

Have a good browse of the website – does it list team members? Can you find their details elsewhere?

Check their business address on Google maps

The firm should be on the Data Protection Register

If you are still in doubt, you can ask the company for a copy of their Professional Indemnity Insurance policy

If you’re still unsure, please send us a copy of the paperwork you have received and we’ll take a look!

CURRENT trends

Recently we have heard of firms signing a single heir and then telling them that they the heir  need to instruct a firm of researchers or heir searchers to provide complete family tree before distribution can take place.
The heir is given no choice about the research firm, the amount of fees however is expected to pay for it.
You should not be forced to conduct your own research or instruct a firm of researchers.

Some legitimate firms of heir hunters give very little choice about who administrates an estate. We are seeing some firms of solicitors who are charging upto 2% of the gross estate value on top of their hourly fee for the administration of the estate.
Or instruction to estate administration firms with very similar addresses to the research firm who lack regulation or qualifications.
You have a free choice about who administrates an estate never feel pressured in to instructing any firm. 

In the last few weeks one firm has been telling heirs that they have 7 days to respond to the current offer and no details will be given until they respond. If you are an Heir you will always be an heir and the time scale for making a claim can be as long as 30 years from the date of death, in most cases it is 12 years from the date the administration is completed, so there is no rush; You should never feel pressured in to signing something be for you have time to consider all your options.

For the latest news on frauds with in the industry and other firms or organisations who are thought to operate in a questionable manner keep an I on the Association of Probate Reachers latest news section particularly their “spotlight on fraud page” there also have a page “Naming and Shaming” some of the firms who are thought to operating using unfair terms and conditions (T&C) or carrying out practices that are either unethical, unfair and in some cases illegal.