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Heir Hunters

View profile for Gail Donaldson
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A new series of the television show Heir Hunters is being shown on the BBC this week.  As someone who has spent much of my working life writing Wills for clients and administering estates of people who have sadly passed away, I find this show fascinating.

For the benefit of those who have never seen the programme Heir Hunters deals with the estates of those people who have died without making a Will (or whose Will is out of date and whose beneficiaries have all died).  Those people either have no immediate families, or are estranged from their immediate families and the programme tries to trace those who will inherit under the Intestacy Rules.

Obviously this is television and the production company have to make a good TV show so most days the show features a race against the clock by competing firms of genealogists to trace the beneficiaries who will inherit and sign them up (and then get their commission!).

What makes me sad about this show is that often those people who have died do have people in their lives that they are very fond of – e.g. good friends or neighbours or a stepson or daughter who will not inherit under the Intestacy Rules.  The outcome of this show is often that a very distant relative whom the person who has passed away has never met, or in some cases the Crown inherit the estate.  If the person only had made a Will those who were close to them or their favourite charity could have benefited.

Heir Hunters is an interesting show and whilst tracing beneficiaries can provide a fascinating insight into how we lived our lives in the 20th century, the lesson to be learnt is make a Will, especially if you have no immediate family or want to benefit someone who is not a blood relative.

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