Heir Hunters - UK TV Series

Down here in Australia, they’ve just started screening a a UK based documentary series called Heir Hunters.

The premises is the show is following employees of a company called Fraser and Fraser, and as I understand it the government periodically releases a list of people who have died without wills, and without obvious inheritors. If no one comes forward to claim the estate the money goes to the government.

Firms like Fraser and Fraser then take those lists and attempt to track down any relations who would have a claim to the estate. They then get those potential inheritors to sign a contract with their firm, so that in return for a portion of the estate they will file the appropiate paperwork and present the government with the evidence of that person claim. I cannot seem to find what sort of percentages the fee for this is, but it must be reasonable as there seems to be quite a few firms doing this, and if the show is at all factual, the larger estates seem to have quite fierce competition in trying to get the inheritors signed up.

I guess that long winded explanation is background to a bit of a question I was wondering. If you had one of these firms show up on your door, what’s to stop someone from taking their information like say:

“Hmm so my long lost uncle Bob died with a 500k pound estate and I’m the sole heir? And all I need to do is sign over 20% of the estate and you’ll organise for me to get it? Thanks for that - let me think on it and I’ll get back to you”

And then promptly going and lodging the paperwork yourself?

A recent epsiode was for an estate of 300,000 pounds. Presuming we’re talking 5-10%+ for a fee at that point surely it makes sense to do it yourself. Even if you have to pay a few hundred pounds for some birth/death/marriage certificates and probably spend some time going through the buecractic process?

Because they’re usually careful not to give you enough details to work out which particular long lost relative they’re dealing with until you’ve signed on the dotted line.

Also, while it is entirely possible to lodge the paperwork yourself, the research required isn’t easy. The difficult bit is that any claimants have to demonstrate not only that they’re related but also that all other potential claimants have been traced. Most people, quite sensibly, prefer to rely on professionals to do this and the professionals who have turned up your doorstep having already done much of the basic spadework are as good as any. The potential costs aren’t just those incurred by the actual research; it’s all the complications that can arise from submitting a poorly researched claim. The larger the amount, the greater your interest in getting everything absolutely correct.

Yes, if you’re not even aware that a relative has died, you might not have a clue how to find out who the person is and how they’re related to you. So it’s like free money when somebody says they’ll do the work for you, at a price.
It’s that, or maybe not getting anything.
I have relatives all over the world, but they’re distant enough (in both senses) that nobody would bother telling me that one had died, and I’d assume there were closer heirs anyway…