Tracing Heirs Internationally

Finding the heirs of an estate can be challenging and complex, especially when the deceased has no immediate relatives for information or has a complex family tree. This can become even more complex when the family spreads over different countries or continents. In this case, the UK databases and other tools that probate genealogists use might not be suitable; accessing documents and speaking to relatives overseas can take longer and be more challenging. In this article, we look at the complexities and options available to trace heirs internationally.

Access to international databases

The ability to trace heirs effectively is partly down to the level of information the probate genealogist, or heir hunter can access. They need different database sources to be able to find people internationally. These databases may provide information on birth certificates, marriage certificates and death certificates. Heir hunters use these databases to try to locate missing beneficiaries or other family members that may have connections to those that are missing. These databases can provide valuable information on location, the current name and whether the person is still alive.

Common surnames

An issue many heir hunters face is common surnames; this is particularly an issue in certain countries such as China. Many people in China have the same surnames; unfortunately, this makes it more challenging for heir hunters to find missing heirs. This prolongs the research and means heir hunters may need to contact several people to find the right individual. In addition to contacting several people to find the right heir, probate genealogists will need to use other documents and their professional experience to assemble the pieces to locate the right beneficiaries.

Destroyed or missing documents

Destroyed or missing documents can be an issue both internationally and locally when hunting for heirs. However, there is potentially an increased risk when documents are spread over a wider geographical area. Lost documents cause heir hunters issues which can prevent them from finding an heir. If documents have been lost, probate genealogists may need to rely on other methods, such as publishing notices in the press and searching online. Notices are only effective if the heir hunter has at least an approximate location for potential heirs. Language barriers could mean that the notice isn’t entirely accurate or isn’t placed in the most visible location. Finding and contacting the right press association becomes more challenging when the heirs are international.

Local authorities for documents

There is no doubt that international probate research is challenging; what makes this even harder is countries don’t follow the same rules in terms of keeping and storing documents. For example, many European countries don’t have a central database where all records are kept; each local authority will keep the documents for that area. This makes it far harder for heir hunters to get hold of the documents. They may need to contact several authorities before finding the right one who holds the documents for the correct family. The process for keeping documents will vary depending on the country; this makes probate genealogists' jobs even more difficult.

International experience

There are many different probate genealogist companies you can use to trace heirs. Unfortunately, this profession isn’t regulated; therefore, it is critical that you research in order to instruct the right firm. If the case is international, you should seek the services of a probate genealogist with international experience. Take a look at the cases they have worked on in the past and find out their experience in tracing heirs internationally. Some heir hunters will be experts in particular countries or regions, their costs might be higher, but you will ensure the case is settled quickly and the heirs are more likely to be located. Do your research and look at several heir hunters before deciding on the right one for your circumstances.

International families make tracing beneficiaries more challenging but not impossible; the right heir hunters will be able to use all of their resources to find any missing beneficiaries on a global scale. When missing beneficiaries can’t be located, missing beneficiary insurance can be taken out to protect the administrator and proven heirs of the estate. If anyone comes forward after the estate has been distributed, the insurance will pay out the costs, and the amount they are entitled to receive.

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