National leading law firm Blake Morgan have been recognised for their outstanding contribution to ‘heir hunting’, or probate research – the process of helping next of kin become reunited with estates they often had no idea existed, at The UK Probate Research Awards.
Celebrating the achievements and examples of excellence across forensic genealogy (or heir hunting), the UK Probate Research Awards, presented by the BBC’s Nikki Bedi, took place on 7 February in London.
Supported by Aviva Legal Indemnities, and the National Association of Licenced Paralegals (NALP), the UK Probate Research Awards – also a global first – were created in recognition of the fact that probate research has emerged as a profession, which provides a constant stream of good news stories while providing an invaluable public and legal service. Welcome windfalls and reunification of families are regular events, while instrumental research and essential services support the legal world.
Blake Morgan, who provide advice on all aspects of wealth protection and inheritance planning for individuals and their families – were commended by judges for providing expert advice to clients under often difficult and emotionally charged circumstances. They offer a tailored, high quality service that ensures their client’s interests are managed and protected in line with their wishes for their lifetime and for the benefit of future generations.
Commenting on the award, Blake Morgan partner, James Grieg, said: “The death of a loved one is always a difficult and challenging time and so we provide expert advice, assistance and reassurance to make the process of inheritance as straightforward as possible. However, the latest government figures show there are over 9000 unclaimed estates in the UK meaning that there are many cases where property, money, and other assets remain unclaimed. We are proud to be able to reunite families with their inheritance and see the impact that this can have on their lives. While death can be a difficult subject that many of us choose to avoid, the heir hunting process can be complex and lengthy so our advice is to always make sure that you have arrangements in place to ensure that your final wishes are met.”
The team at Blake Morgan have worked on a number of high value cases where those inheriting had been estranged from or had never known the deceased. Sadly, due to the personal circumstances of many deceased individuals whose estates Blake Morgan have worked on, their legal and financial affairs are not always in good order. This can raise additional complexities when administering an estate and advising clients.
For example, one deceased gentleman had neglected to maintain his property in his latter years, such that it was left in a dilapidated and structurally unsound condition on his death. Moreover, his leasehold over the property had only 44 years left to run. To save time and cost for the estate, Blake Morgan arranged an auction of the property and also provided conveyancing services on for the resulting sale to a developer.
On another estate, the sole beneficiary was the deceased’s sister; however, a claim has been made against the estate by the deceased’s former spouse, both for an interest in the former matrimonial home and as a person financially dependent on the deceased. Being a multi-service firm employing Property Litigation and Commercial Litigation teams, Blake Morgan has been able to advise the client on all contentious aspects of this estate.
On a third estate, a deceased’s main asset was a bungalow residence purchased under the “right to buy” scheme. Unfortunately, the property had been left in a very unhygienic condition and full of clutter. There were also several thousand pounds worth of unsecured loans outstanding against the estate. To ensure a quick sale of the property to settle these debts, Blake Morgan arranged clearance and cleaning of the property and also obtained a waiver from the local authority (the former owner of the property) as to the exercise of their right of first refusal on any subsequent sale.
Age UK, the UK’s largest charity supporting older people, benefited from the silent auction which raised £1000,00 on the night.
Other highlights from the evening included Danny Curran, a star of BBC’s Heir Hunters television programme winning Best UK Probate Research Firm of the Year for his company, Finders International.