The benefits of genealogical research in the public sector
Self-evidently, Local Authorities have to accomplish more and more with less and less funding and fewer and fewer resources generally. The private sector can help. Genealogists’ firms exist to identify and locate people you need to find whose identity and / or whereabouts is unknown. We work hard to support Local Authorities in a number of ways – here are three:

Funerals under s.46 Public Health Act
Firstly, we help where a Local Authority is considering arranging a funeral under s.46 PHA. As a matter of course, a Local Authority will want to locate the next of kin of the deceased person – perhaps the family and once located, will want to take on the funeral arrangements, saving the cost to the Authority. If the family isn’t in a position to take on the cost of the funeral, they nonetheless have the opportunity to attend and pay their respects to their relative.

Where the Local Authority is Appointee or Deputy
Secondly, we work with Local Authorities acting as an Appointee or Deputy. Where you are holding funds on behalf of a deceased intestate client, our role is to identify and locate the next of kin to whom the funds can be paid. Where you are Deputy and considering applying to the Court of Protection for a Statutory Will, usually it will be necessary to join the Protected Person’s statutory next of kin to the application so that they can be heard should they wish to object to the terms of the Will.

Empty Homes Officers
Empty homes can cause Local Authorities real headaches and the priority is to get them back into use, housing families who need accommodation. Our role is to locate owners of empty properties – or, where they’ve passed away, their executors or next of kin so that you can engage with them and enable the properties to be re-occupied.

How we do it?
In any case where you know who and where the next of kin are, you might not need us. However, where some or all of the relatives are unknown, we identify them by reconstructing the family tree, documenting the relevant events of birth, marriage, civil partnership and death. Once we’ve built up the family picture, we locate the family members and contact them, explaining the position with regard to their relative.

It’s impossible at the outset to predict with any degree of accuracy how large the family will be, how closely or distantly related to the deceased its members will be and how widely dispersed they will be. Our job is to establish the position and report back to you, enabling you to move forward on the basis of the results we provide.

What about GDPR?
Local Authorities have to navigate the General Data Protection Regulation just like the rest of us. However, it’s not enough simply to comply with GDPR – the requirement is that we show compliance. To do this, we’ve drafted a GDPR-compliant data sharing agreement which sets out your credentials as Data Controller and ours as Data Processor. It clearly sets out our responsibilities and demonstrates that you, the Local Authority, are not breaching GDPR by sharing information with us under the terms of the agreement.

Referring matters to the Government Legal Department’s Bona Vacantia Division
Some people take the view that because a person’s relatives are unknown it means that none exist. However, because we have very generous intestacy rules in England and Wales (there are eight degrees of kin entitled in priority to the Crown), it is always much more likely than not, that surviving relatives do exist and can be found.

In the guidance on its website, GLD says: “BVD does not deal with estates where there are known or likely to be entitled relatives who survived the deceased even if these have subsequently died, cannot be traced or do not wish to deal with the estate.”

Recently the head of BVD said “Our position is that as over 80% of estates referred to the Government Legal Department (GLD) each year are not bona vacantia, we should aim to give up the Crown’s interest in such estates as quickly as possible.  Ideally, of course, our preference would be that these estates are not referred here in the first place as it is not appropriate that GLD is used as a tracing agency for missing kin or executors. Furthermore, it is our view that before anyone refers an estate to GLD they should be as sure as they can be that the estate is, in fact, bona vacantia.”

Pro Bono work for Local Authorities
Fraser and Fraser are proud to offer our decades of experience to local authorities Pro Bono. In many cases, the work we do to, say, locate the family of a person you’re arranging a s.46 funeral for; or to find the owner of an empty home who’s not answering your correspondence, is unpaid. It’s Local Authority Officers who deliver services to the community day in, day out, and we’re happy to support the Public Sector by providing our services at no cost to them.

If you assistance or would like more information on any o the above, please contact us today on 020 7832 1400 or email publicsector@fraserandfraser.co.uk