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Can you get a long-lost family fortune, as TV shows claim?

‘Dad I Never Knew Left Me £ 7,000’: Could You Get A Long Lost Family Fortune As The TV Shows Claim?

A knock on the front door. This isn’t a parcel delivery girl or a lost pizza delivery boy, but an ‘heir hunter’ who offers a life-changing windfall. He mentions a name you’ve never heard of – a long-lost black sheep of the family.

This unknown relative has passed away leaving a small fortune behind, and the family tree scavenger at your doorstep believes you should come forward to claim a lucrative slice of the pie.

You have every right to be suspicious. There are plenty of fraudsters out there hoping to cheat you with such a trick – and take any inheritance they can find. And even the renowned firms charge a hefty commission of 10 to 30 percent of the proceeds.

Mission accomplished: heir hunter Danny Curran has tracked down Amy Fabris

Mission accomplished: heir hunter Danny Curran has tracked down Amy Fabris


Amy Fabris didn’t even know her estranged father – he left her mother pregnant before she was even born when they lived in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe).

The 47-year-old Bournemouth dental nurse is not bitter, but neither is she mourning the death of Italian-born Giampietro Fabris. She was tracked down in June following the death of the 72-year-old earlier this year and is now expecting a £ 7,000 inheritance.

Amy was approached by Finders International on behalf of Brent Council, who asked the company for help after discovering that her father died in his sheltered home in Wembley, North West London, with no will or apparent relatives.

The tracker was able to confirm that Amy was his child, as his name was on her birth certificate. Amy says, “It was a total surprise. While he never contributed to the family growing up, this windfall can be of little consolation.

“I hope to take my mom on a vacation cruise in the future.”

But before you slam the door in their noses, take a deep breath. Every year, thousands enjoy a windfall thanks to their help, and indeed you could be one of them. So unlike most cold callers, it can be rewarding to hear this one.

Heir hunter Danny Curran, of Finders International, who also uses the posh titles of heirloom detective and forensic genealogist, says: call to confirm details if you are nervous.

‘You don’t have to sign anything right away. See if they are members of the trade association, the International Association of Professional Probate Researchers, which has a code of practice and a mediation service to handle any complaints. Every year more than 300,000 people die without a will and at least half leave an estate worth thousands of pounds and could be worth pursuing.

Crucially, true heir hunters try to find the ones who are lining up for a windfall instead of waiting for business to get to them. Hence, it may be worth hearing what they have to say at the door.

Curran says: ‘The amount left behind with those we contact varies enormously – we’ve handed out everything from just £ 6.95 to over £ 1 million. We often don’t know the full amount until we complete our research, because the final inheritance jar can eventually be divided among many family members. We like to tell people in person if we think they could be a beneficiary. Because the person died without a will, they are often estranged from family.

He adds: ‘We are receiving all the responses. Some people are distraught and have burst into tears, while others want to dance on the graves of relatives with whom they have lost weight. Often times, a recipient has no idea who the person was. ‘

Curran unravels what looks like a paper towel in front of me on the desk, which turns out to be a long family tree with hundreds of handwritten names.

After being recently named by a city council from someone who died in a care home with £ 50,000 in his name, the heir hunter initially had nothing more to do than a death certificate, detailing the person’s previous address and age.

Rooting, he bought a copy of the man’s birth certificate from the General Register, accessible via the Internet. These cost between € 11 and € 35, depending on how urgent you want them and whether you have a reference number.

From here, Curran discovered the parents’ name and obtained copies of marriage certificates, also purchased online from the General Register. But in this hit and miss affair, up to 200 or more certificates can often be bought before the detective is sure to find the real parents that match – and then lead the trail to other siblings.

The parents of an elderly person who has passed away may have been born a century ago. Curran also dives into the National Census Archive online for free – open for perusal from 1841 to 1911. Websites such as Ancestry and Findmypast provide resources that can also help with this spadework.

Plus, heir hunters do the traditional gumshoe detective work by walking down the street and talking to neighbors about what they know. An heir hunter must find the deceased’s entire family and report their findings to an attorney responsible for the settlement of the estate.

This whole process can take up to 18 months. You cannot get your discount until it has been calculated if other family members are also a windfall. The sequence of inheritance begins with husband, children, parents, siblings, nephews and nieces, then half-siblings. Then they are grandparents, before other branches of a family tree are explored.

After 30 years, an unclaimed estate is considered Bona Vacantia – which is a Latin term for ‘property without owner’. At this point, the government takes control of the whole lot.

But why bother hiring a hunter – surely you can only do it to track down your legacy now that you’ve been tipped for that potential pot of gold?

Curran says, “ Of course, there’s nothing to stop you from doing it on your own, but while it may sound simple, the process is time consuming and can cost quite a bit of money without guaranteed getting anything. You pay for this service. ‘

You can become an investigator and find out if you owe money by visiting the Government Legal Department website at gov.uk/government/organisations/government-legal-department. Scroll down until you get to the ‘unclaimed estates list’. This includes details of deceased people with money yet to be claimed – up to 30 years ago.

Names are provided in a spreadsheet format that lists people in alphabetical order, along with date of death, address, age, and other information, such as possible alias names they may have used as well. There are currently nearly 8,000 names on this list.

If you have an unusual last name, this is an obvious place to start, but check your family tree for other girl names that may include a link. data is updated every day and if you think you have a claim just click on ‘make a claim on a deceased person’s estate’.