Search for Missing Beneficiaries – Probate Case Study

14 June 2017

Client Situation

Co-op Probate was instructed to administer the Estate of Mr V, who had died without making a Will. Mr V was a man in his late eighties, who had never been married and did not have any children. We were instructed by his brother, who was only a year younger than Mr V himself, and was reluctant to deal with the Estate himself.

Mr V’s Estate itself was relatively straightforward, he lived in rented accommodation, and the assets consisted of bank accounts with two different institutions worth approximately £60,000, and a private pension which needed to be cancelled.

Mr V was one of ten brothers and sisters. He was survived by two of his brothers, while the other seven siblings had all died before him, with the majority of them having left children.

With our Probate Complete Service we take full responsibility for obtaining Grant of Probate and dealing with the Legal, Tax (excl VAT), Property and Estate Administration affairs*.

How We Helped

We verified that Mr V’s brother was entitled to administer the Estate under the Rules of Intestacy. We quickly valued the Estate and applied for a Grant of Representation on behalf of Mr V’s brother.

The challenge came in locating, contacting and verifying all of the Beneficiaries entitled to a share of the Estate. Under the Rules of Intestacy the Estate would pass to Mr V’s brothers and sisters, and where they had died before Mr V, their share would pass to their children.

Mr V’s brother provided us with a small amount of information at the outset, including the names and addresses of his surviving brother, and some of his nephews and nieces.

We began our search by contacting the known family members and asking them to provide us with as much information as possible about themselves and their immediate families.

The responses we received varied greatly. Some people had little to no knowledge of their own families, while some people were able to draw on their own amateur research to provide us with either the necessary birth, marriage and death certificates, or information so that we could obtain these on behalf of the Estate.

Our research led us to find Beneficiaries throughout the country, from Newcastle upon Tyne to Plymouth, and even as far afield as Australia.

Slowly, through a mixture of genealogical research and assistance from the Beneficiaries as they became known to us, we build up a picture of the family tree.

We reached a particular obstacle in our research when it came to light that one of Mr V’s nephews had not been heard of or had any contact with the family for over fifteen years.

Gathering as much information as possible into his last known whereabouts, we instructed tracing agents who successfully located and contacted him. At the request of his brothers and sisters, we have passed on their contact details to him, and we understand that they have now been able to reconnect with their previously estranged brother as a result.

The Outcome

We successfully obtained a Grant of Representation from the Court to close Mr V’s bank accounts, and settle any debts, liabilities and administration expenses.

With the assistance of our tracing agents we located, contacted and verified a total of 19 Beneficiaries entitled to a share of the Estate. We made a full family tree and genealogical report.

We calculated the final share of the Estate that each Beneficiary would receive. Under the Rules of Intestacy, each of Mr V’s nieces and nephews received a fraction of the share that their mother or father would have received from the Estate. Many of them were surprised to learn that they would not all receive the same amount of the Estate, and that their share was dependent on the number of brothers and sisters they each had.

What was a relatively small value Estate ended up taking nearly eighteen months to complete, purely because Mr V did not leave a Will. This has prompted several of the Beneficiaries to make a Will to ensure a similar scenario for their own Estates is avoided.

Mr V’s nephew Mr G wrote, “Just a brief note to say a big thank you. It has obviously been a marathon journey for you tracing all these characters so well done!!”

Mr V’s niece Mrs S wrote, “Thank you for your efforts in tracing all the nieces and nephews. It must have taken a great deal of patience and perseverance.”

Co-op Legal Services is the largest provider of Probate and Estate Administration services in England and Wales, trusted to deal with over £1.3 billion in Estates annually.

*We can also pay all the costs of a Co-op Funeralcare funeral, providing the Estate owns sufficient assets which can be sold in due course to repay our costs.

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