Guidelines for Selecting an Heir Search Firm – Part I
When probating an estate, a lot is required of legal professionals like yourself to fulfill your fiduciary responsibility and honor the decedent’s wishes. The last thing you need during this time is vague information or high-pressure tactics on yourself or the heir(s) when seeking support to locate missing or unknown heirs.
We have written before about the difference a set fee heir locator, like HeirSearch, can make when settling an estate, closing a trust, or probating a will. This month, we want to explore helpful tips and first-hand experiences to guide you in making the most informed decision when seeking an heir search service.
Timing is everything
When probate is opened and filed with the court, the estate details become public record. That means the information contained therein is accessible to any heir hunter service. These firms are most interested in intestate estates and estates with unknown heirs and large values.
Significant concerns have been expressed over the years by the legal profession and consumers about the percentage fees, or “contingency fees,” charged by some heir locator firms. Many heir locator firms, or “heir hunters,” may use questionable, high-pressure tactics to obtain excessive percentage fees of inheritances. In order to protect their fees, heir hunters often withhold the name of the deceased, and even the amount of the inheritance, until the heir agrees to sign a contract. This means heirs are asked to sign away an unknown amount, sometimes as much as 50% of their total inheritance.
Contacting HeirSearch the moment you know you need assistance is your best course of action. Not only will you be better prepared to decline the services of heir hunters, but the sooner you contact us, the sooner we can get to work locating missing or unknown heirs before an heir hunter approaches them.
A long-time HeirSearch client, a probate attorney based in Minneapolis with over 40 years of experience, says, “When I give [HeirSearch] a job, I know they’re going to get it done correctly and in a timely manner…They send the paperwork quickly, and as soon as I return it, they get started. We schedule monthly check-ins, and they always reach out if something comes up in the meantime.”
No authorization without quotes
As the estate attorney, only you can grant authorization for an heir locator service to begin a search for missing or unknown heirs. If an heir hunter has already started a search when they contact you, you are under no obligation to accept their services or rates.
It is entirely within your rights and duty to obtain a price quote before authorizing a search for heirs or sharing any information about the estate that the heir hunter may request.
Transparent fees, first and foremost
Above all, the most important factor in your probating processes is mitigating financial risk through transparent and predictable fees.
“[HeirSearch’s] fees are very reasonable,” says a probate attorney. “I’m always given a letter explaining what [HeirSearch] proposes to do, and we sign off on it. It’s pretty simple. Their initial proposal quotes an estimated number of hours, and if it gets more complex, they send me an updated proposal outlining any obstacles…I trust them.”
Our fees are always upfront, transparent, and at an hourly rate–never as a percentage of the estate or inheritance. We are here to support you in satisfying the court and your clients, and unpredictable fees make your job more difficult. By providing clear and justified hours and rate quotations before initiating a search, we give you the peace of mind that you are working with a partner you can trust.
We hope you enjoyed Part I of our guide for selecting an heir search firm. We will continue next month with Part II, where we will share helpful information about legal documentation, personalized service, and a first-hand account from a client of HeirSearch locating over 150 heirs across Europe!
How to Mitigate Fiduciary Risk During Probate?
If you need to establish heirship while minimizing your fiduciary risk, HeirSearch can help.
As industry-leading forensic genealogy experts and heir finders, We Find Missing Heirs a Better Way®. Since 1967, we’ve completed tens of thousands of worldwide searches. HeirSearch’s professional researchers identify and locate missing heirs to an estate. We can help solve even the most complex probate cases, spanning multiple genealogical connections and geographies.
We are proud to offer no-cost, no-obligation consultations, court-ready documents, and reasonable, non-percentage-based fees. HeirSearch™ works exclusively with executors, administrators, trustees, fiduciaries, bank and trust officers, and their counsel to establish kinship for legal purposes.
Feel free to reach out with any questions — we look forward to connecting!
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This report is for informational purposes only and is intended only as a reference. HeirSearch does not endorse or recommend any of the products or services offered in the third-party articles or content contained within. We cannot guarantee the accuracy or effectiveness of the same and will not assume any liability related to the same. Additionally, nothing contained herein may be construed as legal advice. All offers are void where prohibited by law. Copyright © 2022 International Genealogical Search Inc. All rights reserved.