Information for Beneficiaries

Abel Associates are a firm of probate genealogists and trace missing or unknown beneficiaries to the estates of deceased persons. We usually work on the instruction of professional clients such as solicitors, banks and other trustees who require our specialist expertise to locate missing beneficiaries. We may be required to trace beneficiaries who have been named in a Will, or who are entitled to a share in the estate of a person who has died without leaving a valid Will (intestate).

Sometimes a beneficiary named in a Will cannot be located by a solicitor because the information contained within the Will may be out of date and the beneficiary has changed address, or died since the Will was drafted.

When the deceased has died intestate and not left a Will, the estate is distributed in a set way according to the Intestacy Laws of England & Wales. If the deceased has no surviving immediate family, the Intestacy Laws sometimes allow very distant relatives to benefit from an estate and it is not uncommon for people to receive money from a deceased person who they have never even heard of. If you are to benefit from an estate of a distant relative and interested in your family history, we are happy to provide a copy of our family tree on completion of our research.

We occasionally work independently on unclaimed estates where there is no known next of kin and a solicitor is yet to be appointed. Our decisive intervention ensures that the rightful heirs to many of these estates are located, preventing the funds from falling to the Crown. However, if we do not locate any surviving heirs on these estates and can not recover our fees, we are forced to write off our costs. If we do locate potential beneficiaries, we ask them to sign a commission fee Agreement with us, which entitles us to receive a percentage of the beneficiary's net share of the estate.

Frequently Asked Questions

How did you find me?

On intestate estates where we are required to identify the deceased's statutory next of kin and the deceased has died in England & Wales, we will initially use the General Register Office index of births, deaths and marriages to reconstruct their family tree. We will examine each class of kin and obtain copies of all relevant certificates to identify the rightful heirs. Once a potential living beneficiary is identified we consult electoral registers and telephone directories to locate their current whereabouts.

How are you paid?

Our method of payment depends on the type of case we are working on. When we are working on a contingency fee basis, our only means of securing payment for the work we do is to agree a commission fee with each individual beneficiary that we locate. In this instance, we will send you a copy of our Agreement which specifies our commission, which we ask you to sign and return to us. This fee comes directly from the estate and is only payable when the estate is settled and the heirs themselves are paid. We request absolutely no payment from you in advance or any money from your own pocket. We are only paid if your claim is successful and you are under no obligation to us whatsoever should we later discover that you not entitled to benefit from the estate.

We have a sliding scale of commission fees which vary depending upon the estimated value of the estate and the amount of research involved.

Alternatively, we may have been instructed by a firm of solicitors to work on an hourly rate, or fixed fee basis and agree our fee with the client before research proceeds. Our fee in this instance is payable from the estate as a general estate expense and there will be no additional costs to yourselves.

What happens next?

If we have identified you as a potential beneficiary it is likely that we have asked you to provide some from of identification such as photocopies of your birth and marriage certificates. We need these documents in order to prove your link to the deceased and verify your identity.

We are registered with the ICO (ZA251405) and any information or documents that you supply, is in the strictest of confidence. We will never disclose your details to any third party, other than the solicitor or Personal Representative dealing with the estate, without your express permission.

Once we have completed all of our research and received our Commission fee Agreements where applicable, we will report your details to the solicitors or Personal Representatives dealing with the estate. Once the solicitors have finished administering the estate the balance of the monies held by them will be distributed to the heirs.

How can I help with your research?

Please inform us of any information that we may have requested relating to your family history which may assist us in our enquiries. Family bibles, old photographs and memories from childhood often provide the missing link which can help us to complete our research and you to receive any inheritance more swiftly.

When can I expect to receive payment?

This can vary enormously from case to case depending on the amount and complexity of the research we need to undertake. Some estates have taken well over a year to resolve, but the majority have been completed in a matter of weeks.

On intestate estates, the Personal Representatives are required by law to distribute the funds to every beneficiary that is entitled to a share of the estate and this can sometimes mean tracking down people all over the world. However, you can be assured that your case is receiving our very best attention at all times.

Can I inherit a debt?

You can not inherit a debt from the estate of a deceased person. If estate funds are exhausted after payment of the deceased's debts then the estate is declared insolvent. If you have signed a commission fee Agreement with us on an estate that we later discover to be insolvent, you are under no obligation to us whatsoever.

Are you members of any professional organisations?

Our senior researcher Katherine Abel is a member of the:

Association of Professional Genealogists (APG)


We can appreciate that our approach may often come as a surprise and that many of the beneficiaries that we locate are suspicious. However, If you require any further reassurance that this is a genuine matter we can provide you with a contact at a firm of solicitors who will vouch for our company.

Please feel free to contact us if we have recently approached you as a potential beneficiary on an estate and you wish to discuss the matter further.

Tel: 01268 655 699
Fax: 05603 441 676