What is probate?
Probate is the process of administering a deceased person’s estate. The term is derived from the Latin word verb probo (to prove) – the validity of a will. The executor/administrator must apply to the court to be granted the legal right to wind up the estate. To do this they must provide supporting documents such as the death certificate, an inventory of assets, a copy of the will.
What information can I find?
Wills are rich information that’s especially valuable in genealogical research. You can find out where your ancestor lived, what they owned, who they left their possessions to, what they did for a living, and lots more. Aside from factual information it can give you a real personal insight into the life of your ancestor, who they favoured, religious preferences, their social standing, hobbies and interests. You’ll even get to see their signature.
What if my ancestor didn’t make a will?
Even if your ancestors did not make a will, there are still records produced during the probate process that can provide valuable information about your family history. Documents include the letters of administration – a formal document appointing a representative to administer the estate and an inventory of the deceased’s possessions. It will also contain names, places, addresses, dates, to further your search.
How far do records go back?
The Probate Registry took control of wills and administrations in 1858. At this time the principle registry was established in London, along with several district registries around the country. Prior to this, 300 different church courts dealt with probate, therefore records are scattered.
How do I access probate records?
IWC offer a will finding service for genealogy researchers. Enter all the information you have into our form and we’ll trace your ancestors will on your behalf. Order probate records
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On average the Treasury department absorbs a massive £10 million annually from unclaimed estates in the UK. This is despite the fact that there is plenty of support available for heir hunters to track down their inheritance.
There are many reasons that these fortunes remain unclaimed. In some cases there are simply no living relatives and the deceased is the end of the line within their family tree. This is not that common and for most of those who pass away there are usually some living relatives, however distant.
In order to have a rightful claim to an inheritance the family line can be connected via a grandparent of the deceased. Disparity of family spread is often a problem in connecting the estate to a relative. In some cases relatives of the deceased have relocated abroad and have had little or no communication with the deceased over a long period of time.
Whatever the reasons for not making a claim, with such a large amount of money at stake, there are a number of specialist firms that make a living out of reuniting people with unclaimed inheritance before the treasury can lay its hands on the money.
From the point of death the clock is ticking on an estate. Relatives have 12 years to come forward and claim the inheritance. If they do so within that period they can also collect any interest that the estate has accrued. Ultimately the claimant must come forward before 30 years has elapsed, but a payment during this period is at the discretion of the Treasury Solicitor. No interest can be collected on the estate for the final 18 years.
When someone dies intestate The Treasury Solicitor advertises in national and local newspapers. They give out the details of the person's name, the value of their estate, and the location and time of death. At this point the genealogists, employed by the big heir hunting law firms, will begin to piece together the family tree of the deceased.
These firms do not come cheap and will charge anywhere between 25% and 40% of an estate for their services. They will ensure that a contract is signed before any of the details of the deceased is given to the relative.
If you would like to find out more about our low-cost genealogical research service contact us free on 0800 612 6105