Heirs and beneficiaries are at the core of our business. We work on your behalf to bring you an unexpected windfall.
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Why have we contacted you?
Why have we contacted you?

In many cases, heirs to an estate are known and named in a Will, but sometimes these heirs cannot be found or a Will was never made. In these cases, the nearest next-of-kin can be a distant relative; beneficiaries may have never even heard of the person who has died.

Fraser and Fraser do not trace debtors and only ever trace for a positive purpose. If you have received a letter from us in the post, please send us your response as soon as possible as it will help speed up the estate administration process! Alternatively you can drop us a message below and we’ll be in touch!

If you’ve heard from us, it could be one of five things:

  • We think you may be legally entitled to a share of an estate
  • We have located an unclaimed fund
  • You may know the person we are trying to contact or have information on the deceased
  • We would like to confirm you are the person we think you are
  • We have been asked to locate you by a firm of solicitors


How long does Probate take?

The probate process usually takes between 12 to 18 months to complete (UK contingency cases only) as there are a number of different stages to work through.

When a case is referred to us, the search for beneficiaries begins! We’ve contacted you, because we believe you may be entitled to an unclaimed inheritance. At this point, all we need from you is to return the signed agreement and questionnaire as soon as you can. This can even be completed online. Once this is complete, we’ll send you a our disclosure detailing our research and your connection to the estate.

We will submit your claim to the relevant authority and the legal process begins! An administrator is appointed (not costing you anything) who will obtain a Grant of Probate or Letter of Administration. There is a legal requirement for both testate and intestate cases, known as the statutory wait lasting 6 months from when the grant is administered. In the meantime, we are busy tying up any loose ends.

In the final stages the estate value is calculated and so is your share. Shortly after a solicitor will pay you your inheritance. And don’t forget, we’re not paid until you are, so it’s in our interest to make sure you get paid ASAP!


Been contacted by an Heir Hunter?

If you have been contacted by a firm of Heir Hunters and you’re not sure whether it’s genuine or a scam, we are 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 expertise as a larger probate research firm.

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.

Main things to look out for:

  • You should never be asked to pay up front
  • Usual fees on domestic cases are between 5% and 25%
  • Only sign for your share of an estate
  • You should never be asked to supply documents besides I.D. (never give out your card details!)
  • You should not be asked to pay for the purchase of documents e.g. birth, death, marriage

You can ask the company for a copy for their Professional Indemnity Insurance Policy but if you’re still unsure, please send us a copy of the paperwork you have received and we’ll take a look!


Terminology: With probate research comes a lot of jargon – but fear not, we’ve got it covered

Administering Solicitors

The solicitors instructed by the administrator to administer the estate.

Administration of the Estate

The process dealing with all the assets, liabilities and taxes of the estate, and then distributing the balance to the beneficiaries.

Administration of Estates Act (1925)

The Act under English and Welsh law that determines how a deceased person’s estate who dies without leaving a Will is controlled and distributed. You can find out more information here.
In Scotland, this is the Succession Act (1964)

Administrator/ Administratrix

A person appointed by a probate court to handle the distribution of the estate of someone who had died without a Will, or with a Will that fails to name someone to carry out the task.

Bona Vacantia

Latin for “ownerless goods” and is usually used to describe the part of the Government Legal Department (formally known as the Treasury Solicitor), who handle unclaimed estates and dissolved companies.

Common Law Spouse (Wife/Husband)

There is a frequent misconception that a couple living together are “Common Law husband and wife”, however; under UK law, the only way a person can acquire the rights of a legal spouse is to enter into a civil partnership or get married.
The only way for an unmarried partner to inherit from the deceased is through a Will, or by taking the matter to court under the Inheritance (Provision for Family Dependents) Act 1975.


The estate incorporates everything the deceased owned as well as the debts and taxes the deceased owed to others.

Executor/ Executrix

The person named in a Will to administer the assets of someone who has died. They must collect and manage their property and assets and pay all debts and taxes before distributing the remainder. This must be in accordance with any directions in the Will.

First cousin

A child of the deceased’s aunt or uncle. Your first cousin shares the same grandparents as you
A cousin becomes removed if you have to descend down a generation, i.e. A child of your cousin.


The study of family ancestries and histories, including the record or account of the ancestry and descent of a person or family.


Also known as Grant of Probate or Grand of Letters of Administration. This is the formal procedure which will allow you to administer the deceased’s estate, proving to building societies, banks and other bodies that you have the authority to access any funds held in the deceased’s name. Once you receive the Grant, you become the administrator of the estate.


A person who is entitled to inherit from a deceased estate.

Inheritance (Provisions for Family and Dependants) Act 1975

An Act – in addition to the Administration of Estates Act (1925) – for the spouse, former spouse, unmarried spouse, and child, child of the family or dependant of the deceased. You can find more information here.


When an individual dies without leaving a valid Will.


The state fact of being intestate at death.


The closest relative, defined by law, of a deceased person.

Per Stirpes

This is Latin for “by roots”, and is a term used to describe the distribution of an estate when each division receives an equal share. In England and Wales, this happens at the aunts and uncles of the deceased, whereas in Scotland, this is at the level of the oldest surviving heir.

Probate Court

A specialised court (or division of a high court) that considers cases concerning the distribution of deceased people’s estates.

Probate Researchers

Professional probate researchers work to trace extensive family trees, making connections between people are not linked in an obvious or straight-forward linear relationship. This allows heirs to be found for inheritances which would otherwise go to the state.

Section 27 Notice

This is part of the Trustee Act (1925), which enables the trustees, personal representatives, executors or administrators to protect themselves from any creditor coming forwards after a notice has expired. You can find out more information here.

Testator/ Testatrix

The person who has left a Will.

Vested Interest

This is used to describe a person who has post-deceased – they are said to have a Vested Interest in the estate. This means that their entitlement will be dealt with via the instructions in their Will (if one was left). This is part of the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, which makes provisions for empowering the court to make orders from the deceased’s estate for the spouse, former spouse, unmarried spouse, child, children of the family or dependant of the deceased.


A document which specifies what is to be done with the assets that person will leave behind when they die. A Will should also name the Executor.


FAQs: The Probate Research Process

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. Occasionally there are some cases which take much longer to process, such as school sites or international work. Take a look at our timeline ‘How long does probate take?’

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 if you wish.

Who is entitled and why?

Under Law of England and Wales, the deceased’s spouse, children or blood relatives who are descendants of the deceased’s grandparents on both sides of the family are entitled when no Will has been left. The intestacy law in other countries can differ, please speak to your case manager for a definitive answer.

How are estates divided?

A person’s entitlement is calculated in accordance with Administration of Estates Act (1925), for estates where the deceased died in England and Wales. The calculation method may differ if the deceased died outside of England and Wales.

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 losses that could arise in such circumstances.

Are relatives by marriage considered as a next-of-kin?

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

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

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

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.

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.

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 years.

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

Most often, there is no time limit, 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.

How long do you have to contest a Grant?

You have six months from the date of the Grant, which is why we recommend 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.
FAQs: The Deceased

Who has died?

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

What happens 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.

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.

Where has the deceased been buried/ 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.

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.
FAQs: Inheritance, tax and costs

How much will I receive?

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

When will I receive my inheritance?

It will be distributed when the administration of the estate is complete. This often depends on the assets of the deceased. You can view our ‘How long does probate take’ section for more information.

Do I have to pay up front?

No, we will never ask for money from you. If you are ever approached and asked for an advance payment to receive your funds, it’s likely to be a scam.

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. This could be a cheque in local currency or pounds/ sterling, or a bank transfer.

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.

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.

How much do you get paid and when?

We are paid directly from the administering solicitor/ attorney.

We get paid the same time as you do, i.e. at the end of the process.

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.

Do I have to pay solicitors fees?

You will not need to pay us or a solicitor directly, these fees come out of the estate’s value. If you decide to consult a solicitor personally, this may incur a cost.

Will I owe you if I don’t inherit?

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

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.

Will my inheritance affect my benefits?

This depends on how much your inheritance is and what benefits you receive and your local council. It is best to approach them for advice.

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.

Will the administrator 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.
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