People we get in touch with are always keen to discover in-depth details about our research services.

Take a look at the most Frequently Asked Questions we receive – and understand how Intestate law works.

All you need to know - FAQs

Why have you contacted me?

Our team of professional researchers and heir hunters are dedicated to tracking down beneficiaries of unclaimed estates.

If one of our letters lands through your post box, there are several reasons why we’re getting in touch.

It could be that we are checking to see if we have found the correct family.

We might be trying to locate certain members of your family - and need your help to do so.

We may believe there is a possibility that you may be an heir to an unclaimed estate.

Obviously, we understand that you may be a bit sceptical about the whole process. But we would urge you to give us a call to find out more. It won’t cost you anything and you’re not obliged to proceed if you don’t want to.

What type of cases do you work on?

As professional researchers, we specialise in locating relatives of people who have died without leaving a valid Will (known as Intestate) and when no relatives could be found.

If we contact you, there’s a strong possibility you may be able to claim an estate which would otherwise go to the Government.

We are continuously working on a wide variety of cases.

For some, we have been contracted to work for Solicitors who need to find relatives named in Wills or in Intestate cases where other family members need to be found.

We also work on Bona Vacantia lists where ownerless property is in danger of being passed to the Crown – because no Will has been left and no heirs have yet been found.

Why don’t we tell you who’s passed away?

When we first get in touch with potential beneficiaries, we always maintain the strictest levels of privacy. Consequently, we will never write to anyone and tell them the name of deceased.

Firstly, this is because we don’t always know how accurate our information is at the initial preliminary research stage.

The second main reason why we don’t reveal the name of the deceased is because we don’t always know where the letter will end up or in whose hands.

In certain circumstances, there can be two people with the same name in the same area. But only one of them might be a relative. Out of respect for the deceased, we try not to be the first person to inform a family member that someone is dead. Likewise, we also don’t want to inform a stranger about the death of someone they know as it can feel cold and disrespectful.

How do I know this isn’t a scam?

We fully understand that our calls or letters often come as a surprise.

Sometimes it sounds as the information we provide is too good to be true.

In most cases, we are simply trying to prove that a person who we think could be a beneficiary is entitled to claim the estate in question.

If you are uneasy about this, there are 3 actions you can take to verify the validity of our actions - and put your mind at rest.

  1. Seek legal advice at your own cost to put your mind at rest.

  2. Ask your local Police force to contact us & verify that we are a bona fide business.

Obviously, you can give us a call to discuss our research and we will always try and assist by answering any questions.

Why have I suddenly been contacted by a number of researchers?

A list of unclaimed estates is released by the Treasury almost on a daily basis – and these are checked by various professional researchers in England and Wales.

Like us, other researchers are free to look into each case – but we can never be certain about who is researching what and vice versa.

Several researchers want me to sign an agreement with them – which one should I choose?

In our experience, it’s best to get in touch with each one to discuss the services they are proposing.

Don’t just focus on the firm with the lowest ‘success fee’ as that should not be the most important factor you consider.

Remember, the percentage fee that you agree is not the only expense(s) that will be taken out of the estate. Probate fees also need to be considered and, as with all things, these can be higher in some areas than others.

If a research firm is offering to conduct Probate themselves, they may not be regulated and are free to charge you whatever they like.

This is often a tactic for firms who have a low headline percentage as it allows them to make more money in other areas.

At DS Researchers, we never conduct the Probate process. Instead, we refer you to a specialist independent company who offer great value service for an affordable fee.

We believe this is important because these fees will eventually come out of the final estate settlement, providing you with a larger potential windfall.

Will I be asked for any payment contributions?

DS Researchers will NEVER ask anyone to make a personal contribution for their research or towards the administration.

All costs incurred will eventually be taken out of the estate which is inherited.

You may be asked to send original copies of personal documents so that we can prove the validity of a potential heir. Postage would be your only expense.

However, by doing this you are helping us to join the dots and are highly likely to discover if you are an entitled relative.

How much do you charge?

No two cases are ever the same. Each one requires a unique amount of research (and time) before we can determine whether there are any beneficiaries.

As a result, the commission we charge depend largely on the amount of work and expense we have to invest in researching the case.

When we get in touch with you, our commission is clearly stated in your correspondence. Typically, we charge a percentage of the amount that you actually receive.

However, unlike some research firms, we do not charge for conducting the Probate administration process. Instead, we refer this to an independent specialist or solicitor so that we can remain 100% transparent in regards to our fees.

Some research companies who also conduct the administration stage are not limited in what they charge. They then charge a much smaller percentage than we do because they have recouped their earning in another area of the process.

For clarity, we do not know how much an estate is worth when we commence our research. All we know is that it must be worth more than £500 otherwise it would not have been listed by the Treasury under UK law.

In one rare instance, we worked on an estate where the beneficiaries got more than £1m in the final settlement. At the other end of the scale, we’ve also carried out extensive research for estates where the deceased has been declared insolvent – and in this instance the beneficiaries didn't receive anything and nor did we.

Will I be responsible if the deceased had debt?

When someone dies, their ancestors do NOT become liable for any debts they may have.

You, and any other beneficiaries which can be found, will NOT be responsible for the deceased’s debts.

In fact, these will be sorted out during the administration period and paid out of the estate.

In the worst scenario, the deceased may have debts which are valued at the same level or more than the estate. If this happens, the estate will go into liquidation and no payments will be made to the beneficiaries, nor any researchers.

How long will it take for us to receive any money?

Unlike in the past, the Treasury no longer gets involved in administration when there are NO beneficiaries.

Once a claim has been accepted, they release further information for the next process to begin.

Once the estate is in administration an asset search will be completed to ascertain the value of the estate for the application for a ‘Grant of Letters of Administration’, if required.

Once this has been granted, the administrators will gather in all known assets, sell off any property and pay off any known debts. At this stage, they should be able to provide a distribution figure for the estate.

The shortest possible timescale for completion is approximately 12 months, however more complex cases can take considerably longer.

We may be asked to do a final research by the administrators to locate any outstanding beneficiaries, this has to be done before any distribution takes place.

Missing relatives who cannot be located can cause serious delays to the process. If they fail to respond to our requests to get in touch, this adds to the delays.

No matter what case we’re working on, we always stress the need to be patient so that we can follow the required legal process.

How much money will I get?

In the early stages, very little is known about the value of an estate.

When we start our research, our discoveries at this stage are only assumptions until we have them confirmed. The only fact we know is that they are referred to the government if they are £500 or more.

Once we get into the detail of the case, usually after about 3 or 4 months, it may be possible to gauge an approximate value of the estate, based on indicators like the fact the deceased owned their own house.

When the Probate and Intestate process begins to investigate all the available assets, we may become aware of an estimated value.

At this stage, clients who have signed up to use our services will be given a calculated estimate. However, this is always subject to change (up and down) depending on any further debts and/or assets coming to light.

Therefore, we always tell people to take this sum with a pinch of salt as the value could go up or down – especially if administrator finds a funeral bill or other expense which needs to be paid.

Who is entitled to the estate if the deceased has left no Will?

Under the Intestate law of England and Wales, the following people are entitled to claim an estate:

  • Deceased’s spouse or civil partner.

  • Children of the deceased - if they haven’t been adopted out of the family.

  • Adopted children - into the family.

If none of these exists or are not relevant; uncles, aunts and their children could be beneficiaries (in that priority order).

Should you be in any doubt about your status as a beneficiary to an estate, please call 01482 658635 to clarify any queries.

Are relatives through marriage entitled to make a claim?

As a general rule, relatives of a spouse of the deceased would not be entitled to claim an estate. However, it is worth getting in touch to check.

I might be a beneficiary, could my cousins be beneficiaries as well?

Any cousins which exist on the maternal or paternal side (which ever blood line is the relevant one), could possibly be entitled to claim an estate.

To clarify your beneficiary status, call 01482 658635 for an informal chat.

I’m not related to the deceased, but I knew them very well and helped them with various things at my own expense – would I be entitled to anything?

Usually, the Administrator of the estate will be advised about any possible discretionary payments by the Solicitor working on the case.

How is the money divided up?

Each case is judged on its own merits. But it’s a complicated process and depends on your individual family circumstances.

How the money is allocated has nothing to do with when you were born. It is distributed based upon your family tree and all the available dependents (beneficiaries) position upon it.

Essentially, the distribution of an estate cascades down your family tree in a waterfall effect. And it is not necessarily divided up equally. In most cases, it isn’t.

Once all available beneficiaries have been located and contacted, we will be able to tell you what percentage of the estate you can expect to receive.

How did you find me?

As professional researchers with years of experience, we spend hours trying to locate potential heirs on a daily basis.

We use Genealogy websites, social media and all available public records – including the Electoral Roll – to trace people and established their current whereabouts.

We like to think of the process as joining the pieces together of one big jigsaw, so that people can rightfully claim the assets of their ancestors.

What happens to the possessions of the deceased?

Items such as photos will be available to the beneficiaries. But, in most cases, any property or valuables of the deceased have to be sold so that the estate can be distributed under Intestate law.

Can you provide me with the address and phone numbers of my relatives?

As a business which must register and comply with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA), we cannot give out any details of people we have located – even if they are relatives.

However, if you give us permission in writing to pass your details to those other relatives, they may be interested in contacting you. We have done this in the past and it is usually well received by all parties.

I’ve been contacted as a beneficiary; can you provide me with a family tree?

Should we contact you as part of our research, it may be possible to request an outline family tree, which can be purchased as part of our professional printing service.

Does your firm obtain the Grant of Probate?

To avoid any conflicts of interest, we do not get involved in the Probate process. However, we can recommend independent solicitors, administrator and accountants who provide great value for a competitive fee.

I was informed at every step

Allyson, Canada

“Although it was a surprise to receive a letter, I found the service completely professional and I was informed at every step.”

I received my inheritance quickly

Frances, South Africa

“Always helpful and their response time is amazing. Nothing was too much hassle and I received my inheritance quickly.”

You diligently conducted the whole matter

Chris, Somerset

“If it wasn't for you, I would've had no knowledge of my late uncle's estate - I'm very pleased with the way you diligently conducted the whole matter.”

Very professional and easy

Theresa, Essex

“Thank-you for the quick and efficient way you dealt with my inheritance - very professional and easy.”

Find out more about how we work & discover why we’ve contacted you

Call 01482 658635 for a friendly chat.

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We’re fully committed to handling personal information you’ve supplied to us in compliance with the latest GDPR laws, and we’ll never share your details.

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