7 Tips for Selecting an Heir Search Firm


You need to locate a missing heir to settle an estate or trust, but your own efforts so far have come up short. Where do you turn?

You may not be aware of what happens when an “heir hunter” gets involved in an heir search. Since significant windfall rewards are available when an heir is successfully located, unauthorized searches are unfortunately common. 

Heir locators, or heir hunters, use questionable, high-pressure tactics to obtain excessive percentage fees of inheritances. They often will withhold the name of the deceased, and even the amount of inheritance, until the beneficiary agrees to sign away part of their inheritance.  Heir hunter percentage fees can sometimes be as much as 50% of the person’s inheritance! 

These fees are often details in the “fine print,” but most people don’t read carefully until it’s too late. Selecting a reputable heir search firm is crucial. Here are our top 7 tips to help make your choice easier.

  1. Time is of the essence. 

As soon as the estate has been opened and filed with the court, information becomes public knowledge. This will result in many heir hunter firms actively seeking out the heirs. 

  1. Weigh your options.

Exercise caution when discussing the case with prospective search firms, and advise any firms you consult that they are not authorized to start a search without your consent. Many firms offer different fee structures, but you can obtain a quotation without disclosing the estate name or the names of the missing heirs.

  1. Make sure you understand the fees.

Take the time to investigate your chosen search firm’s fees. The fee should be reasonable, and you should know whether it will be paid from the missing heir’s inheritance or by the estate. Heir location services from a professional search firm can always be achieved with fair, transparent, and justifiable fees.

  1. Confirm their reach.

Heir searches often expand beyond one region or country, and both national and international connections are essential to the search process. An established firm should have access to digital and physical databases, libraries, and archival records.

  1. Make sure you’re covered.

Your chosen firm should have adequate errors and omissions insurance to protect all parties. At HeirSearch™, we maintain corporate insurance coverage for errors, omissions, and/or general liability.

  1. Check their references.

Make sure the search firm is reputable and in good standing by checking industry references and associations. Online reviews can be a helpful resource, as well.

  1. Obtain court authorization.

Where applicable, obtain court authorization of the search firm and the fees. The firm should be able to provide fully documented court-ready reports and testimony if required.

If you have any further questions about selecting an heir search firm or locating a missing heir, get in touch with us for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation now.


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