/ Money

Are heir hunters cheating us out of our inheritance?

Vintage family photo

Heir hunters, firms that track down “missing” heirs, may promise an unexpected windfall. But their fees can leave you with far less than you’d otherwise be entitled to. Have you been approached by an heir hunter?

If you watch daytime TV, you’ve probably seen the BBC’s Heir Hunters programme. It’s compulsive viewing. Heir hunter firms race against the clock to find missing heirs to estates and claim some of the inheritance money for themselves in fees.

The programme’s appeal is similar to Who Do You Think You Are? since you learn about the genealogy involved in tracing the deceased’s family tree. However, there can be a darker side to the work heir hunters do.

Excessive heir hunter fees

A number of firms charge excessive fees, meaning heirs can end up paying way more than if they had been charged by the time spent actually tracing them and carrying out the administration involved.

We’ve heard of one firm charging as much as 40% plus VAT, which equates to £120,000 of a £250,000 estate. Yet, the work might have only cost a few thousand pounds if based on the time spent.

What’s more, some firms don’t reveal the name of the deceased or the value of the estate when getting the heir to sign the contract agreeing to their terms. This means that you don’t know how much you will end up paying if you sign and are not in a position to assess whether the fees are fair.

Your inheritance rights

If you know who the relative is, you can make the claim yourself. Even if you did nothing you could get your inheritance anyway, as the administrator of the will has a duty to make sure all the heirs to an estate get their money. Yet, some heir hunters may imply that you will only get it if you sign their contract.

To avoid your relatives being approached by heir hunters when you die, you should make a will and keep it up-to-date.

Firms might argue that they do valuable work in making sure people receive inheritances and that this is an unexpected windfall for most people. They might also say that they risk time and money tracing people who may not sign up – leaving them out of pocket. Still, is it really necessary to charge fees so much higher than would be charged on a time-spent basis?

What do you think? Would you be happy to pay a large fee for an unexpected windfall, or do you think some heir hunters are exploiting the general lack of knowledge around this area?


WCN and MadBadRob – can we please move away from getting personal with one another. And WCN, please be careful about making accusations about individuals or companies. Thanks.

WindyCityNorth says:
24 June 2013

If I have made an an accusation against any company I apologize …. but I haven’t . All comments are on the industry in general. If my comments are hitting some company’s bottom line to the negative that means my work here is helping the little guy. Mad is accusing me of working out of Chicago where no relatives of the UK would ever live.. Guess what, they do……….. and they receive intestate inheritances all the time. This is another example of Mad not knowing his own industry. Now if this is attacking whatever company he runs well kick me off this nightmare of inaccuracies. Don’t forget I asked the moderater many months ago to delete my registration …. and they refused . My only assumption is that they thought I was leveling the playing field with these company’s who have a vested interest in bleeding the average inheritor dry.
Bin there, done that, and am the richer for it.


I know this industry very well and appreciate that many of the cases we work end up over the pond. My point was that you being based over there have little if any knowledge of this industry other than a few points which to be fair have in the main been inaccurate.

Do you think that your comments on here are really knocking the bottom line of mine or other businesses out there? I can tell you they are not but then the accusations you level regarding percentages of commission do not tally with my own.

You state in your last post ‘…..who have a vested interest in bleeding the average inheritor dry’ Would you care to expand on that point and explain how this is the case? How would this average inheritor even know they were entitled to any monies if it wasnt for companies like my own?

I will give an example from a case that I am just about to receive the cheque from the treasury. Last week I received a letter from TSOL stating that my client had been accepted as the daughter of the deceased and that the estate was valued at xxx. I immediately rung my client up and spoke to her husband. His words to me were as follows “Its a shame for yourself that the estate isnt worth more than this but for my wife and her siblings it is far more than we ever expected” The story behind this case is one we come across regularly. Father was having an affair and one day walked into the family home gathered the 5 children up and moved them in with the mistress. They never saw their mother again. They found out 2 years ago by chance that their mother had died in 2005 but could find no further infomation about her. When I contacted them they asked me if I would be able to tell them more about the circumstances of her death and I said I would. I then contacted the nursing home where she had resided for over 10 years and I have obtained from them the personal possessions that were not disposed of after death, They now have 3 pieces of jewellery but more important to them photographs of their late mother. They also know where she is now buried and some of the money they are receiving is going to pay for a headstone on this burial site. Without myself having pursued this case and tracked them down there would have been a large sum of money heading into the governments coffers and they would all die knowing nothing more of their mother. This is a part of this business you havent either mentioned or considered. It is not about just chasing names for money. I am sure any of the other companies that have posted in this thread would tell you many similar stories. Then of course there are those cases where the deceased had no immediate family and the entitled are cousins who didnt even know the deceased. How would they be the average inheritor if it wasnt for companies like my own?

If you think we are all in this to get rich you are wrong. Roughly in the last 6 months I have made a profit of just over £5800 which is way below the average weekly wage in this country. Am I complaining? No of course not. I could double my commission and double my profit. If I had employees I would have no choice but to double what I charge but as I work on my own I am happy earning enough to pay my rent and all my household bills.


[This comment has been edited for breaking our guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Thanks for your attempts to calm things down, however, the language being used despite your comments seems to indicate you are being ignored. Daniel Curran

Dear WCN, I repeat my offer to talk to you any time. Finders have never ‘bled anyone dry’. Do you know what Finders are doing with a large part of our profits at present? Starting a new Charity School, strictly not for profit, investing in the future for London’s kids. We make way less than Starbucks & Google but pay more in Tax to the UK government than they do! Despite your protestations to the contrary, business can be done with a sound moral conscience. I think your anger/passion is mis-directed and could be used to better effect on some more meaningful mission than the Heir Hunters world. You are clearly determined enough. Daniel Curran.


Its not about trying to calm things down and yes if you read back through this whole thread you will see that he has a bee in his bonnet about one or two things yet doesn’t really understand what you I and others do in this field. I have tried to explain to him using examples from my own day to day work but yet again it seems to go over his head.

If he spent one day in my shoes talking to my clients about the service I have I provided beyond just chasing names and the money I think he would have a different perception of the business. The old saying when money appears intelligence disappears seems to ring true.

Which didnt help this in their article. I havent seen the full article and have asked twice if they could send me the full article but as yet they have failed to do so


Rob and WCN, the fact that you have both broken our commenting guidelines again in reply to my comment shows a lack of respect for the rules of play here on Which? Conversation. You are both now under formal warning – any further infringements will result in you being banned from commenting on our site.

Please read our commenting guidelines before making any further comments: https://conversation.which.co.uk/commenting-guidelines

PS. WCN we deleted all of your previous comments as requested. You will find they are all blank before you started commenting again.

Maria says:
7 December 2013

You can sign yourself off by pressing the key at the bottom Windy North and with that title, it is very easy to guess that you are writing from Chicago, Illinois, I agree that you have no knowledge about this business in the U.K. even in your own country, the U.S. the rules are different from state to state.

WindyCityNorth says:
8 December 2013

Maria , apparently I have more knowledge than you … as I did not pay one red cent to an Heir Hunter and received % 100 of my portion of the estate. I know you have to try your best to defend your industry … it ain’t working. BTW … trying to get rid of someone telling the truth is not quite that easy. The attempts to erase my comments in this article shows how much pressure i am putting on the heir hunter business.

To all the readers of this article … do not sign on the dotted line … you will be sorry.

Maria says:
8 December 2013

Windy City North, of course there are English people as heirs from Chicago living in the U.K. or anywhere else in the world for that matter. People these days emigrate, so we find cousins who are there as well. None of our clients pay unless they receive an inheritance first. The comments have NOT been deleted by the Heir Hunters but by Which ? Magazine and the contracts keep coming signed with many letters of thanks.

[This comment has been edited for breaking our guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

I dont see how my comments were personal in so much as explaining that being as he seems to be based in the US he really can’t comment on how things work within this industry within this country.

The Secret Heir Hunter says:
25 June 2013

I am an expert in the industry & some of the comments on this forum by supposed experts are naive to say the least! Most of these people have no idea what they are talking about at all and wear their “Heir Hunters Association” badge like it gives them a degree of credibility !

[This comment has been edited for breaking our guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Maria says:
8 December 2013

True. I personally find the term ” Heir Hunters ” derogatory akin to psychiatrists being called a
“Shrink” or an attorney being called ” an ambulance chaser ” Do you think anyone who is serious would join an entity called ” The Shrink Association ? or the Ambulance Chaser Association ? equally I wouldn’t join one called ” Heir Hunters Association ” Ha,ha,ha,ha. You have to laugh !

How about a financial saprophyte? 🙂

“Heir Hunters Association” badge? Who has one of those and who of those commenting happen to be a member of that group?

Paul says:
25 June 2013

Simple questions, back to the article. Who thinks charging 120,000 quid is fair? Has anyone ever done £120,000 worth of work on a case before? What is the maximum time anyone has spent finding relatives in actual work hours?

People who are being approached as potential heirs have no frame of reference to judge a fee or percentage charge, where can they go for guidance?

(BTW, I thought Edinburgh is also known as the ‘Windy City’)

Maria says:
9 December 2013

There have been cases that have taken years to solve, so these are put on one side and worked on when further records have been released by the government, like it was the case when the 1911 census was released a couple of years ago and in that instance, a lot of cases that were very old were able to be solved with this census.

So Rob, you cannot say 10 hours is the maximum amount of time a case can be solved and that is just the beginning of the process, then the case has to be submitted to the Treasury where they either accept or reject the claim, if it is accepted, a responsible company will also do the administration of the estate with a solicitor so that the monies can be distributed properly.


If you mean 120k is just the commission then I would say that would suggest the estate was well into the 500k range which would attract lots of other problems. You also dont say whether this included fees such as for solicitors the out of pocket expenses, how difficult the case was etc.

From my own experience the least amount of time I have spent finishing a case is around 10 hours total time spent on that particular case. The longest is one I am working at present which is into its 65th hour. This is by and large unusual but then it has a rather large amount of entitled heirs. Why I am still doing it I really dont know other than I dont like starting and not finishing a job.

With regards to people being approached and I can onnly speak for myself here. I always explain the procedures I have taken to get to that point and the time involved in obtaining the monies from the treasury. Just because I have a signature doesnt mean the job ends at that point. I still hae to put together a full case file for the treasury. It is then a matter of looking at who the best person to make the claim on behalf of is. By that I mean I dont just choose the first person I sign. I will look at which person is closest to the deceased as that will mean less certificates etc and thus means more of the estate will go to the entitled people. Some cases as in the one referenced above the whole family decide who it is they want to be the claimant. Whilst the claim is being adjudicated on I am on the phone regularly with the clients to keep them informed of any progress or even no progress. Those phone calls I dont charge for. I am lucky I am a one man business and work from my home address so my overheads allow me to charge a low commission rate. The bigger firms dont have this luxury so they have to charge more to cover their costs.

The final point I will make within in this reply relates back to earlier points and one I think needs reiterating. Would any people on here who have received monies even know they were entitled had it not been for someone like myself contacting them? I am going to suggest that in 99% of the time the answer is no. So would an inheritance of say 10k less any commission be better than that total amount going to the government and the entitled person getting nothing?


Paul says:
25 June 2013


I was referring to the article where the commission was 40%. I notice in another post someone added some additional details

“The final estate had a Net value (after realisation and solicitors fees ) of £212,000. The hire hunters total fee including commission and ‘expenses’ was £150,000. So basically 70%.”

I understand your point about these heirs may have got nothing without the Heir Hunter, but the amount taken is surely unfair… It’s looks like there are 30 to 40K of expenses!!!!


Without knowing the full details of the estate involved nor does the article above actually say what the 40% equated to. Did that include the expenses associated with making and administering the estate? If estates are over a certain figure we will normally have a solicitor involved which obviously will incur further expense on top of our commission. That said I have an agreement with one to do it on a fixed fee basis. I personally could not justify 40% commission

The Secret Heir Hunter says:
26 June 2013

Rob, Nice to see that someone actually finds all the entitled heirs in a estate rather than just locating part of the family and giving them all of the estate!

If that happened then those who should have been entitled to a share should be suing the company involved.


Maria says:
9 December 2013

I know about a case where the heir hunter found and signed only ONE heir and instead of doing the work properly in finding all the heirs that would include the administration, he simply made that heir the administrator of the estate but as it was, this HEIR/ADMINISTRATOR did NOT send the checks to the other members of her family who were signed by another firm of probate researchers, the ADMINISTRATOR/HEIR simply kept all the monies. The heir hunter just walked out of the equation leaving this mess behind him. This is why I’m saying that a responsible company will also provide the administration services INCLUDED in a contract.

The Secret Heir Hunter says:
26 June 2013

This is exactly the sort of well intended, but inaccurate and misleading, information that gets posted on these sites. What possible right of action could an entitled beneficiary, who did not receive their share, have against the genealogist involved?

SHH if you are as you say an heir hunter (and I suspect I know who you are) you will know that we are required to pay out all the entitled heirs their entitled share. If an entitled beneficiary can show that we have been negligent in our research they can issue civil proceedings to recover their share. It is for this reason we take out missing beneficiary insurance. As you know in this day and age there are more and more chldren being born out of wedlock being given the name of the mother with no mention of the father which means we rely on family members telling us of this issue. In that respect we cannot be shown to be negligent.

It is the responsibility of the genealogist involved to make sure they have exhausted every avenue of research to locate all living entitled heirs. It is why when I make contact with clients I ask the question no matter how insensitive it may be “Are you aware of any child to the deceased who may have been born and not given the fathers surname?”

There is on this thread or on the moneymatters forum where a company paid out the half blood son who was not entitled and ignored the fact that their was a full blood son over in America who should have received the full inheritance.


Lily1234 says:
18 November 2013

Hi Rob,

I am really interested in your views of this as I am trying to work out whether to trust certain companies.

[Hello Lily, we don’t allow the posting of personal contact details. Sorry, mods.]

Hi Lily:
If you are looking for an “Heir Hunter” that you can trust then there are some points that you could consider:
1/ How long have they been in business? If they were around BEFORE the TV show started then they are very likely to have a solid financial background and know what they are doing.
2/ Do they have a website and does it explain everything to do with this business in a proper understandable manner?
3/ Do they answer your questions? They may not tell you everything about the deceased or the estate: that’s something that may be kept confidential for business reasons but they should explain why they can’t tell you certain information.
4/ Ask about the administration process. It’s almost always a good idea for a solicitor to do the admin on an estate. In my view although the heir hunting company may reccomend a solicitor for the admin that solicitor should be an independent company.

The Secret Heir Hunter says:
26 June 2013

The question seems to have been ignored, what direct right of action would an entitled beneficiary have against the genealogist involved? They are not the genealogist’s client and they owe them no duty of care. Unfortunately there are some companies who take advantage of the above.

This is a very good example of amateur “heir hunters'” ignorance and clearly demonstrates that they have no business being in this line of work.

I disagree totally with you. We are required to make sure we seek out and pay out the correct shares to ALL entitled heirs. If they do not sign with us you are right they are not our client and would have to provide all the required documents to prove their entitlement. Your question was not ignored at all it was answered. If I didnt pay out the correct entitlements I would expect to be called to account by such people whether they were my client or not.

Your argument is such that if you had an estate and found one entitled heir then there is no point looking for and signing up any further heir and just paying the full amount less commission to that one person.

Ignorance is no defence in law. I am sure that if you paid out just one heir because they are your client and ignore those who are not you would be liable under the laws surrounding intestacy. I would also expect whatever insurance company you use for indemnity insurance would soon drop you as well with this attitude.

You mention a duty of care to your client well I would also say we have a duty of care to the deceased and the laws of intestacy.

I agree that many people have come into this field based on the back of the TV program. Many have fallen to the way side when they realise that the program glamourises what is in fact not an easy profession. It doesnt help when you have an ‘association’ pop up run by someone who has no background in the industry and is supposedly running master classes with the help of people who have only completed a few claims. The program has in my opinion only been beneficial in so much as clients now dont always see our letters has scams.

I am pretty sure that I myself have more years experience of genealogy and probate genealogy than some of those researchers shown on that program. Before I set up in this profession I researched the industry, the laws behind intestacy etc and how I could fit into this field. I do not consider myself an amateur. Without wanting to be personal it seems to me that your post is one of fear that because of the smaller companies your top line is being reduced because we dont have to charge high amounts of commission.


One thing that disturbs me is that you have mentioned receiving a cheque from the TS which indicates that you are acting as an Administrator to the extent of doing the work necesary to wind up an estate yourself including bringing in assets, paying bills and in short doing the things that a solicitor should do.
I also know that some members of the HHA have done this and there has even been advice on their message board about this. I don’t think that this is a good practice: solicitors should almost always be involved as they have the benefit of their professional association which indemnifies individual solicitors against malpractice.

The Secret Heir Hunter says:
26 June 2013

Rob, I do not condone the practice, I’m merely saying that it exists and is used by numerous so called “Heir Hunters”
You state that “we are required to make sure we seek out and pay…”. Who exactly requires this of you and what is the legal basis for this? What exactly are the “laws surrounding intestacy” that would call you to account?
I would stress again that I’m not condoning the practice nor trying to be provocative, just proving a point.
Companies of all sizes have their place in this industry, provided they have the expertise and experience. The company I work for has always been profitable and will continue to be so.

[This comment has been edited for breaking our guidelines. Thanks, mods.]


The laws of intestacy I believe are the laws we have to abide by. Well thats what my research and legal advice I received was. If I am wrong on that I will stand corrected. I would also think there were grounds for a negligence claim in a civil court.

I personally would like to see some form of regulation within this industry. I dont believe as some suggest on their website that APG or AGRA affiliation is even useful. In fact I think they are about as much use as joining the HHA. They have no legal standing, they cant sanction members and really offer no protection to joe public. The only way thay joe public can be protected is to regulate.

I agree totally with your comment re companies of all sizes. I know I can’t compete with the bigger companies on the larger valued estates and wouldnt want to either. I am happy picking cases off the historical lists especially as there are quite a few on there of decent value that the larger companies have missed or disregarded due to the expenses outweighing what they can recover. Has I have said before I am happy earning a living and stopping these monies going to the government or the duchy of lancaster.


[This comment has been edited for breaking our guidelines. Thanks, mods.]

Ian Marson says:
26 June 2013

“I don’t believe as some suggest on their website that APG or AGRA affiliation is even useful”

Just to clarify, there is no such thing as AGRA affiliation. and AGRA is not the same as APG or HHA, these organisations fall short of requiring members to prove professional competence. AGRA has two levels of membership, full and associate. Full members have to prove professional competence and if case work they have submitted for assessment deemed to be of a high enough standard by the board of assessors then they are accepted for membership. Unlike APG, HHA or any other organisation AGRA requires a high standard of competence for membership, it is the only organisation in England and Wales that has this requirement (Scotland has ASGRA) and has been around setting the standards for genealogical research and related disciplines for 45 years and some of the countries leading genealogists are members. It is also has representation on several bodies including the TNA, GRO. ONS and Probate Service, we are regularly consulted by these organisations, we partner with SoG, IHGS and Strathclyde University and do regular training events for our members in both genealogical and business practice.

It is true that we cannot regulate probate genealogy services, a change in the law would require some form of regulation, I believe eventually something will be put in place, you only have to see how PPI claims, DCA’s, Banks and other financial services have had to tidy up their acts, it is unfortunate because their are many long term well established companies that do operate ethically and reasonably. AGRA members work to a high standard, observe a strict code of practice, undertake CPD and are subject to a complaints procedure then this is a safeguard for clients as they can be assured that there is a good standard of service. If at some point there is any consultation regarding regulation then no doubt AGRA will be involed in this. Whilst the industry remains unregulated then the only come back any client would have in order to seek redress or claim negligence is through the courts, having said that in the first instance if a complaint was against an AGRA member then it may be that the case could be resolved before any court action was instigated. We rarely get complaints because our members work to the required standards.

What amazes me about so called genealogists, whether they be working in probate or otherwise is that they choose not to seek AGRA accreditation, if they are so good at what they do then they have nothing to lose by submitting an application for assessment and it is proven that our members derive much work from their membership because people look to some form of accreditation to ensure they are not getting ripped off or receiving a sub standard service.

Confidentiality prevents me from saying too much but AGRA receives it’s fair share of enquiries from people who have used non AGRA members only to find they have received a less than perfect service, I know who these people are, unfortunately we are unable to intervene except to be able to give advice on how to seek redress.


Sorry if you felt I was attacking AGRA I wasnt I was just making the point that many people assume that AGRA APG HHA etc all are rgeulatory bodies of my profession. I have looked at the situation with yourself and whilst as yet I havent applied it may well be something I do in the future. In the 30 years of carrying out genealogy I have to my knowledge never had a bad word said about my services and in fact have had many referals because of it.

I have heard many stories about members of the APG and recently carried out some work that had been previously done by an APG member which to say the least my 12 year old autistic daughter could have done better.

So to clarify my previous post. We are an unregulated profession as are all genealogists and I would like to see some form of regulation brought in.

Ian I wish there was some way of being able to give you my email address however this forum wont allow for that as I would like to discuss with you some aspects of AGRA and its joining criteria


WindyCityNorth says:
26 June 2013

Nice to see some two-sided discussions on this subject .It sure beats just the industry insiders telling us how to behave. I would like to reiterate what I have said many times. Once their is an executer of the intestate will all you have to do is wait for the cheque in the mail. The executor has the duty to find all living heirs. Sometimes they use heir hunters and these companys will grind you for ever cent they can get out of you. Again just wait, or if you really don’t care ask to be included at a rate of ten percent or less. Don’t worry you will be included in the settlement because the executer has to perform his/her duties according to the law or end up in jail

Great discussion, I have ignored the heir hunters personnaly and am much the richer for it. You can do it too.. just do a little research and use some common sense!.

WCN can I correct you yet again? You do not have an executor of an intestate estate at all. You have an administrator.

Excutors of a will may instruct us to seek out heirs of a legacy but that is a different thing altogether and how that is dealt wit is between the HH and the executor.

I think you need to read TSH again if you think that is the case.

WindyCityNorth says:
27 June 2013

Administrater /executor …. why split hairs/heirs they do the same job. The administrater acts as an executor. Different terms. BTW the moderater has ASKED THAT YOU COOL YOUR JETS….!
Your attitude on this subject makes me evermore vigilant to lookout for the little guy trying to make it thru this tangled web that is the heirhunter industry.An industry who preys on the helpless and hapless with %40 commissions.

Let me repeat do not pay these companys more than %10 commission. And truth be told you don’t need them anyways …. just wait for the cheque in the mail. The executer/administrater has to by law find you ……….. and they will without any commission going to one of these ambulance//tombstone chasers.

Wind City
People out there let me correct WindyCity, and I am only referring to “Bona Vacantia Cases” (intestate estates), being advertised by the TSOL(Treasury Solicitor).

You will wait a very long time (forever), if you think someone will contact you, because, the reason why the TSOL are advertising, they cannot trace any potential beneficiaries, remember you are only a beneficiary once proven as the closest Kin to the deceased person. (Note!, it is not an inheritance, you were not left a share in his/her will, there was no will).

So the most probable circumstances that will make you aware of this estate, are;
a) You notice it on the TSOL Advertised list, a very small chance
b) A relative has informed you because they have been contacted by a Heir Hunting Company
c) A heir hunting company has approached you directly.

Taking into consideration, that B or C, are the reasons you no know of the estate
1) You are only aware of it because of contact by the Heir Hunting Company, and it can be said that in the majority of cases would never have been aware otherwise.
2) It still has to be proven legally that you are a Closest Kin relative
3) You are only a potential beneficiary, (and in no way an Heir by automatic right)

And Also,
That on the basis of the research carried out, the company will have to:
1) Submit a claim to prove a potential beneficiary, as being a closest Kin relative, and a right to a “share”, in the estate.
2) If successful, apply for administration of the estate.
3) conduct further research, to find other potential heirs, which may include both Maternal & Paternal branches of the deceased persons Family.
All this in majority of cases, not knowing how much it is worth.
4) Prove all dead branches, take out insurance for those branches that cannot be found
5) Administer, the estate according to law, and Distribute the funds accordingly, to all known beneficiaries

It is then logical to conclude that if a company, who has gone to these lengths, to find potential beneficiaries to an intestate estate, that they should and do charge a fee that is normally in line with the industry average and ranges between 10% and 25%, depending on the work involved, and competition, as it should be in any service industry related work.for the fact
a) they have found
b) that they will prove you
c) they will find all others
d) they will Administer & Distribute the Estate.

So all those harping on about the moral issue, There is no moral standpoint, you were not left a share in a will, you were not originally aware of the estate, without the intervention of an heir hunting company, the TSOL, will reap the benefit of all the £18million unclaimed estates per year.

So if you are one of these, and a potential beneficiary, be my guest claim it yourself, and take on the role of administrator, and all the legal responsibilities that holds, and the research you will need to carry out. see how you fare.

To be totally blunt you are receiving a service, and like all services you have to pay for them, so get over it.

I would imagine we (Heir Hunters)will carry on with the hundreds, possibly thousands of cases we prove yearly, and with a 99% satisfaction rate, keep a lot of people happy.

Dave says:
23 July 2013

Happy to pay a fair price. Not happy to be defrauded.

Michaela says:
23 July 2013

Very well said, BLRBOSS,
those are the only estates I’m working on and 9 out of 10 people are very happy that I found them, as they wouldn’t have found out about it otherwise. The 1 person is not unhappy about me having found them, but me not giving them all the details, so that they can cut me out of the middle.

I’ll re-iterate, I am only referring to Bona Vacantia cases.

How do you think you can be defrauded? defrauded of what? £1, £0 or £1 million, you are only a potential beneficiary, and your relationship is still to be proven.

the beneficiary, is usually one of many entitled. there is normally no idea of the estates worth, except, if it has known property, but then again there could be a large mortgage or debt secured against it, so no guarantees there, remember the beneficiaries don’t take that risk.

So if proven, you receive a share of the estate, no matter what % of your share you were charged, you will either get £0, a very low £value, a reasonable £amount, or a very tidy £sum, all of which, you should be happy about, as without being notified and contacted in the first place , you would have got nothing.

As already said, that in most cases, we don’t know the value, and there is no guarantee we will sign all the potential beneficiaries, because of strong competition.
The fee , is set, to a figure (10-25%), by the Heir Hunting company, based on a number of factors, the risk of it being nil or low value, (considering the average is between £500-£7000), the amount of competition, the amount of research required to find all entitled kin, and prove their relationship to the deceased.

If you are one of the lucky minority, that share in a large estate, that had been of “unknown value”, rejoice, and thank the company for contacting you, do not whinge about what they were paid, they provided you with a service, that turned out to be very lucrative for you.

And if you only received a small share, then still be thankful, you received something, and you had good service, remembering, that it is most likely, the company lost money.

And finally, any case where the value is known, and has close kin entitled, the fee is set by the market competition, as it should be.

BRLBOSS I dont know where you get your figures re 10% to 25% from and I would be very interested in that because I have never seen 10%. Likewise I saw a contract only yesterday which was 35% but I wont tell you the name of the company has that is their business. That said you are only saying what I have been saying for months,


As a general rule the fee ranges between 10-25%, but can when it is a very competitive, large value case, be brought down below 10 %, by market forces.

Whereas, e.g.. non competitive cases ie,those that have been on the companies database for years, being re-worked, foreign cases, or cases given by private parties, can attract fees of over 25%, because of the nature of research involved.

You say as a general rule yet again you dont say where you get these figures from. For you to say a general rule you would have to know what every company out there is charging and I am sure not one company would give you that information.

Id have bought into the 25% average but never the 10% unless there was a large valued estate with lots of competition for the signature

I can assure you the average is closer to 10%, than 25%, by a mile, I get this by experience of over 10 years in the industry, and being involved with the top 5 companies.

but using your basis of reckoning, it is unlikely, that you can propose that they are higher or around 25% as you suggest, it is clear you have no solid base to argue this.

whilst, I am aware what the average of the Top 5 are.

Interesting that tbf especially as only 3 days ago one of those top 5 companies agreement was shown to me on a case that had taken me 4 hours to complete and trust me they wanted far more than you are suggesting. I think we should leave this though has it does nothing to forward this debate.


Rob, Substantiate your statements and arguments with the the full facts.

It is very unlikely that you could have found every single potential beneficiary, in 4 hours, so that is a nonsense.

What was the case worth, you don’t know for a fact, TBF, probably found by experience, that it would be worth very little, so they were putting forward a %, that would be workable if agreed, but otherwise they didn’t want the case anyway.

It seems you only wish to acknowledge and engage in serious debate, only if the story favours, your premise that TBF are ripping people off, I have covered this and made it very clear,. that on a whole they are not, but I concede there are some bad apples in the pack, but these are few and far between.


The case was a recent one on the BV List and I didnt say I had found every single heir within 4 hours but in this instance yes I had based on the fact that there was no paternal heirs and only 2 relatives on the maternal side. Has this case had a property attached to it valued at just over 86000 i think there was plenty of money involved in the estate.

It would seem that you have not spent any time reading this thread in its entirety or you would also know that I run a business in this field so no this is not about me ending a debate because it doesnt fit my premise.

Over the last 12/18 months I have seen a number of agreements from companies and can tell you not once have I seen one at 10%. Now I am not saying there are no contracts at 10% just that I haven’t seen one.

I am not prepared to continue this debate because it would require company names and figures being divulged and I wouldnt want my agreement details divulged to a general forum like this and it would be unprofessional of me especially as I have no idea what work went into these companies locating heirs to the estates but knowing what I had put into a few of them I can guess at the man hours involved.


On competetive cases where of course the value is unknown the average fee is nearer 15%. Recently one of my case managers visited an heir about 10am of the day the case was advertised and got and got a 10% Agreement. While he was there a member of the Heir Hunter’s Association phoned the heir and was told that the heir was quite happy with his Agreement with Celtic Research. Reportedly the “heir hunter” told the heir “Make sure you push them down to under 5%!” This did not impress the heir as being proper business practice and he remains our client at the original percentage.

Then people wonder why experienced researchers wont look at HHA


WindyCityNorth says:
28 July 2013

BLRBOSS, you are mostly correct in your statements. I will try to clarify where your thought process is wrong. Sometimes people too close to there own business start getting a little anal.
First of all you assume their is only one closest next of kin. If you approach somebody and they know they are the last relative in the world then you would be right. How about having 20 cousins next of kin,5 uncles,etc, etc. On that point I would say you are right 10 percent of the time.
Second why nitpick over the wording of whether it’s an inheritance or not …. most normal people think of it as an inheritance.
Third , your a,b, and c reasons for finding out are valid. B and C are the reasons. You then give your self credit for doling out large sums of money to the lowly relatives who really don’t deserve any of the money because you found it. If you hadn’t found it another heir hunter would for less money. So don’t take credit for being an all seeing great guy/gal who is my new friend.
The fourth point is that many times when a person dies intestate …. it doesn’t mean the relatives of the person don’t know of the death. The money maybe advertised and relatives have already set in motion the wheels to get the cash. Heir hunters are not needed in many of these cases.
The point is …….. just wait for the cheque in the mail and if you absolutely have to ….. don’t pay any heir hunters more than 10 per cent . The administrator has to contact all heirs by the penalty of law ….. if you deserve it you will get it without paying a cent. It’s always good to keep in contact with relatives . Just wait them out. Thats what I did and am the richer for it.
To the readers of Are Heir Hunters cheating us of our inheritance ……. the answer is yes. They try to discredit me for bring the truth to this discussion . Do your own homework after all this is the age of the information superhighway !!!!!!!

It is almost not worth replying to you , you have no basis, on which to argue the merits of any case, you are an heir, that was paid out, but you have no experience in this industry and you make a lot of incorrect assumptions.
My points made in previous comments, remain solid and correct, from years of experience, dealing with these exact same cases.
To Correct your points
There are no cases, where the money is advertised
The Treasury Solicitor cannot find the relatives, and that is why it is advertised , and in 90% of cases advertised, the only way a relative finds out is through the likes of us.
The majority of cases I have done and are presently on my books, are of the cousin line, and range in heirs from 10 -100, and again in the majority of these cases, they knew nothing of the deceased, or had had no contact for many years and in a few there are completed estranged Siblings, that had no knowledge of their parent..
So again if you think you will be contacted, and you should just wait for the cheque in the post, you will have a very long wait.

Any intelligent reader, will check out the websites of the prominent leaders in this industry, and gather and understand the information and complexities of the case, we have nothing to hide.
They will then find they have total disregard for this provocateurs, and dismiss them for what they are.

A small minority, will do it themselves, and that is to be appreciated, but there is nothing wrong in offering our professional services, it is the choice of the customer how they proceed.

WindyCityNorth says:
28 July 2013

BLRBOSS … I totally understand where you are coming from. Defending your turf with misinformation is how it’s done in the world of business. You assume because you contact someone they are your customer …. they are not your customer yet …. they are in realty future suckers to the Heir Hunter industry .

The point is …….. just wait for the cheque in the mail and if you absolutely have to ….. don’t pay any heir hunters more than 10 per cent . The administrator has to contact all heirs by the penalty of law ….. if you deserve it you will get it without paying a cent. It’s always good to keep in contact with relatives . Just wait them out. Thats what I did and am the richer for it.

WCN yet again you show your lack of knowledge. Firstly they are never a customer because I am not selling them anything. They are my clients because I am acting on their behalf.

Secondly if I had contacted you and you had refused to sign an agreement you wouldnt be getting any money from me until such time as you provided me with exactly what we have to provide TSoL to prove a near kin relationship. So you could sit and wait for the rest of your life for a cheque that would never materialise and before you say I would be breaking the law no I wouldnt be.

Could you show me the law where I have to contact al heirs?

Well Said Rob, I totally agree with you.
WCN, hasn’t got a Clue, and He / She isn’t worth a reply. WCN comments are not worth the paper its written on or I suppose emailed on.
As I have already said potential clients, can always check us out on our websites, where they will also find testimonials, from many a satisfied and grateful client.

There may be a couple of Bad Apples in this industry as you have in all walks of life, this is the real world, but on the whole, We are honest and committed individuals and companies providing an excellent service, we are certainly not cheats!

We are not in the business of ripping anyone off, and our successes and thousands of satisfied clients prove that.

Check any Heir Hunters website out, write to their satisfied clients, get it from the horses mouth, it will put aside all doubts.

If you are still not satisfied as a potential client, consult with the Heir Hunting Company, let them explain their fees, and agree a mutually acceptable fee, once you know all the facts of the case.

Don’t be like WCN, Because has Rob says, you will wait a very long time for a cheque, we are not obliged to pay any claimant, until sufficient proof of kinship is provided, the administrator is well within their rights to hold onto the share indefinitely if the kinship is not proven. We use the same criteria as the Treasury Solicitor.

So I am sure that the majority of potential clients/Heirs, reading this must have come to the conclusion, as I have, that WCN, speaks a load of Waffle, and is just an “agent provocateur”, with nothing better to do

WCN, I stand 100%, by what I have said, and will not comment any further on this matter.

You can carry on waffling merrily along.

Michaela says:
28 July 2013

While I don’t work in the UK, but the U.S. there’s simply no guarantee that someone will find all the heirs or even get all of their names. There isn’t one database that the government can tap into and ‘voila’ they have the whole family tree with addresses.

Subsequently, there will be estates where there’s no known relative. And at some point in time they will have to close the file – by law. Then the funds will sit in escrow and only heir hunters will work on them.

I don’t know the UK system, but in the U.S. every state has their own system. in some it sits with the county for a few years and then escheats to the state. Some, the county gets to keep it after a few years and some the county will hold it indefinitely.

But what all of those cases have in common is that they are now held passively and it’s up to us heir hunters to complete the picture and family tree. Without us, nothing will happen and the money will just sit there or might escheat forever, without the possibility of another relative coming forward and claiming.

We are doing a service for people, and it’s one that most found people appreciate.

You’ve said that you prefer to avoid competition. If you were involved in this you would see most of the fees well below 25%. In a recent case worth over £800,000 the heirs reported to us that they had received fee offers from 25% down to 3%. They signed with us at 5% and are happy about it.

We do not charge 40%. You are thinking of a Fraser case of some years ago which got in the news. The case I referred to came out this year. We respond to market forces; in a case like that where there were six companies chasing us we were pleased to be given the agreements even though one competitor tried to undercut us two days after we had the agreements.
If you knew more about what happens in competetive cases you might be surprised at levels of fees.

Dave says:
18 July 2013

Hello. I’m the Mr M in the article.

The story so far…..



I think the report you posted the link to shows a completely different story to that which was reported by WHICH.

Dave says:
24 July 2013

Hi Rob.

I gave the case study info to Which. The exact figures were not known at the time.

I am also a family member/ prosecution witness in the case in the article.

They are the same thing.


The way the article that Which published left us believing that this case had come from the BV lists where apart from the name of the deceased we know nothing else. The fact that this was a solicitor request where the firm may well have been aware of the values etc makes a massive difference. That said this is one firm and not the majority.

As reported, the unacceptable aspects are: the 40% fee and the massive expenses.

Dave says:
24 July 2013


The main reason I posted was that on previous post people had doubted the case study was true and had challenged the numbers, so I wanted to put that right.

You’re right in that this case is different to most others in that it the heir hunters were commissioned by a solicitor and had prior knowledge of the estate but that was unknown at their first contact and for all we knew it could have been off BV.

“That said this is one firm and not the majority”.. and that makes it OK? When you knock on the door do your customers know you are the ‘majority’, Why should they trust to luck? Regulation is needed to protect both the legitimate heir hunter and the beneficiaries..


Point taken. Just so you know when I knock on a door I have usually spoke to them on the phone first as a rule and filled them in on a little of what I am dealing with. I tend to be totally honest and give the name of the deceased although that is a strategy that could backfire.

I believe in open honesty and if I lose some money because they wish to pursue the claim for themselves then that is fine.