When is the right time to refer a matter to the Government Legal Department?
Part of the role of the Government Legal Department (GLD) is to administer in favour of the Crown those estates…More
The business of finding beneficiaries to unclaimed estates can be a drawn out complicated procedure. The population is increasing at breakneck speed, divorce is on the rise, resulting in name change complications, and more and more people are deciding to relocate abroad. However, it is not just 21st Century sociological changes that create difficulties for those looking for heirs; many cases are affected by things that happened years ago, war, for example, had a large part to play.
Issues relating to war can wreak havoc on a case. So many people were uprooted and separated, and some public records were affected. Demonstrating this is a case recently solved by one of the largest and most established firms in the Genealogy and Probate Research field.
When a 24-year-old man fled from wartime Poland, he found himself in Romania with a small detachment of other Polish soldiers. By fleeing Poland, he left behind his wife and 12-month-old daughter.
He had been determined to fight for the allies and ended up fighting in and surviving the Normandy landings. By 1940, he had reached France and later arrived in Britain. By the time he had reached Britain, he could only assume that his wife and daughter would be dead. Settling in Britain, he began working as a chef.
Unknown to him, his wife and daughter had survived the war but could only assume that like so many others, he had been killed at war.
28 years later, in an unexpected turn of events, the daughter was located in Poland. She and her father were informed of each other’s whereabouts, and in an emotional story that was reported in the press, the pair were reunited.
Surprisingly, and sadly, father and daughter lost touch once again, and this time, they were never to be reunited. He died in 1980 having bought a house with his common-law partner who adopted his name and lived with him although they were never married. After his death, his partner stayed on to live in the property until her death in 2008, leaving her daughter to deal with the probate. While dealing with the probate, it was brought to light that her daughter was not the sole heir to the property, that there was, in fact, another heir. Attempts were made to find the next of kin but to avail. The matter was passed to the Bona Vacantia division of the Government Legal Department and therefore ended up in our hands. Things finally began to progress.
As more details and issues came to light, it became clear that the deceased’s family lived in Poland, hence a Polish speaking agent was required. For a practised and established firm of genealogists, this was not a problem as sufficient resources were already in place. For a solicitor to deal with this part of the research alone would have potentially proved too time-consuming and expensive.
Other complications arose in that, certain certificates that were required to prove identities could not be provided just because they no longer existed. The loss of pre-World War 2 records is common, and therefore experience and expertise in probate research matters are essential to be able to get around these issues and move forward with the case.
Despite some challenges along the way, the case was solved, and the daughter was found. She was informed of his death that had taken place 32 years ago. She was also informed of her entitlement to half of his estate.
Many cases face challenges that take searching for beneficiaries, wills, assets, account shareholders, beyond the time constraints of a solicitor administering an estate. This is why it makes sense to refer estate administration to a regulated firm that specialise in this area. Cases then have the best chances of being solved quickly, efficiently and in a manner that adheres to best practice guidelines.