How do I know if an heir hunting firm is legitimate?

Finders InternationalBy Legal Futures’ Associates Finders International

Did you know there is an easy way to check if the heir hunting firm that contacts you to say that you might be in line for an inheritance is legitimate?

Oftentimes, such a claim can sound too good to be true and there are fraudsters out there who operate inheritance scams conning people out of their money. This is why Finders International are founding members of the IAPPR.

Set up in 2016, the International Association of Professional Probate Researchers (IAPPR) provides reassurance to companies, organisations and members of the public who need to use the services of probate researchers, heir hunters and genealogists.

Safe and ethical practices

Organisations and individuals that belong to the IAPPR have a commitment to safe and ethical practices, including a Code of Ethics and a Professional Conduct Code. They ensure that their charges and fees are made clear to the client from the outset, and present all their reports clearly and concisely, taking extra care when dealing with vulnerable individuals who may not have the mental capacity for financial decisions.

Thanks to the ever-popular BBC TV series Heir Hunters, the number of firms and individuals offering probate research services has expanded greatly in recent years. However, the industry is unregulated. A firm that can demonstrate that it is a member of the IAPPR offers consumers and clients peace of mind. It also gives them recourse against rogue probate research firms.

Inheritance fraud can take different forms, but according to the anti-fraud organisation Action Fraud, a typical scam is where you receive a letter or email informing you that a wealthy individual has died, and you are entitled to that person’s estate.

Failure to identify relatives

The letter will say the lawyer dealing with the estate hasn’t been able to identify any of the dead person’s relatives. As a company that works all the time to identify relatives, we can tell you this claim is almost always false, as everyone will have relatives—even if they are not that closely related. Legitimate solicitors will do all they can to either find, or employ others to find, those relatives.

The inheritance fraud goes on to suggest because you share the name of that dead person, you can inherit the money if you split the sum between you and the lawyer.

Like many frauds, it relies on people keeping quiet and acting quickly. The letter will emphasise that the matter must be kept secret, and the person agree as soon as possible.

They will then ask for payments to cover legal fees, banking, etc, and are likely to keep asking for them before you can receive your share of the inheritance, which of course does not exist. They may also ask for your bank details and clear out your account.

Don’t let this happen to you. Make sure anyone who contacts with news of a potential inheritance is bona fide. Membership of the IAPPR is clear demonstration of legitimacy.

Finders International is an award-winning probate research firm.  Our regulations and credentials include the IAPPR, Friends Against Scams, we are approved APSE partners and are the first probate research firm to be approved by the Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI).  For a full list of our credentials, please visit our website here.  Alternatively, you can call +44(0) 20 7490 4935 or email


Associate News is provided by Legal Futures Associates.
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