A concept shot of finding a missing person

When a beneficiary can’t be found, rely on the people tracing or skip tracing team at Blackhawk Intelligence to locate the missing or unknown beneficiary.

Open borders and ease of travel have allowed many of us to move around and live in a country which we weren’t born in. As we spread out across the globe and get busy with life, we don’t necessarily see our family members face-to-face often. While some may just slip through the cracks, other family members may choose not to keep in touch – driven by divisive political views, religious dogma, marriage breakdown, substance abuse or a host of different reasons.

Suffice to say, when it comes to challenges, every family has plenty, particularly in this day and age when many of us tend to have large blended families with multiple step-parents and/or step-siblings.

Accordingly, it is rather common for solicitors or will executors to engage a professional people tracing agency like Blackhawk Intelligence to track down beneficiaries whose whereabouts are unknown or to identify the unknown relatives when a person passes away without a will.

In this article, our people tracing team aims to share three common scenarios where we can make a difference and why our services are required by solicitors, executors, probate specialists and families.

Scenario 1: When the whereabouts of a beneficiary is unknown

Many of us move multiple times throughout our lifetime – moving away to attend university, moving in with our partner, moving because of jobs, upsizing when we have babies, downsizing when the kids grow up, moving because we are retired. Some of these moves may also take us to another country. Amid all these moves, it is easy to lose touch with family members and not knowing that someone has passed away and there is an inheritance await.

While moving away is often the chief reason why the executors can’t find the beneficiary, sometimes things can be complicated when people do walk out on purpose. They may do so due to a bitter family dispute or a range of other reasons from depression to financial issues. When the whereabouts of the beneficiary is unknown, relying on our experienced people tracing team is vital.

At Blackhawk Intelligence, we have access to a wide range of databases and search channels. We work fast to locate the missing beneficiaries as we are aware that long and expensive search efforts will dwindle the money in the estate (as the estate pays for the search efforts), potentially hurting other beneficiaries.

Scenario 2: When unknown beneficiaries inherit under the rules of intestacy

When a person dies without a will, he/she is known as an intestate person and the rules of intestacy apply. In this case, the estate goes to the spouse (a married partner or civil partner) and/or children depending on the value of the estate.

Things get interesting when there is no surviving spouse, children, nor direct relatives such as brothers, sisters and grandparents. Now the next of kin could be nephews and nieces (if one of their parents was directly related to the deceased), uncles and aunts (or their descendants), half uncles and half aunts (or their descendants). In this case, it is wise to construct a family tree and pore through records to find the surviving heirs.

Scenario 3: When independent verifications are needed

If you are an executor and you have managed to locate the beneficiary whom you have never met, there is a chance that they may not be who they say they are. A fraudster could assume the identity of the intended beneficiary and if you fail to verify, you could be held liable.

Accordingly, solicitors and executors involve our team when they need to verify the identity of the beneficiary found independently.

Why is it necessary for executors to track down beneficiaries

The primary duty of an executor is to administer the estate of the deceased and distribute the assets according to the terms of the will. To do so, the executor must be able to locate every beneficiary, including taking reasonable steps to find the missing or unknown beneficiary. Failing to do so could see the executors being held liable if claims are made later.

The search efforts could drag on for years, especially if the executors choose to conduct searches themselves but aren’t familiar with search tools and channels. They may be tempted to visit the places where the beneficiaries once live, further incurring costs and reducing the amount of money the estate has. This is why engaging a people tracing agency is often cheaper and get results faster.

If the beneficiaries can’t be found despite search efforts, then the executors can consider the following options:

  • Obtain missing beneficiary insurance which will pay out if the beneficiary comes forward to make a claim later.
  • Set aside a reserve fund equivalent to the amount the missing beneficiary is due to receive.
  • Attain an indemnity from other beneficiaries, meaning they would pay the money if the missing beneficiary comes forward.
  • Apply to the court for a “Benjamin Order”. The court will assume that the beneficiary has died and will determine how the estate should be distributed.

Benefits of using Blackhawk Intelligence to trace an heir or a beneficiary

At Blackhawk Intelligence, our people tracing or skip tracing team has years of experience locating missing people, from people who walk out of a relationship on purpose to those who abscond from obligations.

When it comes to a deceased’s estate, we help solicitors, probate specialists, executors and families to locate beneficiaries whose whereabouts are unknown and to find unknown beneficiaries. We are also called upon to verify the identity of the beneficiary found independently.

Another part of what we do is finding the lost will, which you can read more by clicking on the link.

The benefits of working with our people tracing team include:

  1. Experienced – we have access to tools, databases and search channels. We also work with experienced genealogists who can construct a family tree accurately.
  2. Professional – we are highly discreet and respect confidentiality. Everything we do is legal and ethical too.
  3. Transparent fees – you know how much each step costs before the assignment.
  4. Regular updates – you know what happens every step of the way.
  5. Global network – local intelligence from our global network can help to speed up the tracing process if the beneficiaries have moved overseas.
  6. Speed – considering search efforts are payable by the estate, we want to get results fast so the executors and other beneficiaries can settle the estate before money in the estate is diminished by the expense of the search efforts.
  7. Support – we have internal teams working on asset tracing, digital forensic and surveillance; they can assist if the case is complicated.

The case of finding a missing beneficiary that spans multiple countries

There was a case involving a woman who had no direct descendants and the closest relative was her niece. She left houses and money to charitable causes and left personal possessions which included valuable paintings and pieces of jewellery to her niece.

At the time when the will was created, the niece was living and working in the USA – her name, address and contact number were clearly stated in the will. But when the woman passed away, the niece couldn’t be found. It was evident that over the years, the woman had lost touch with her niece. It took an intensive search effort to reveal that the niece moved four times and changed her last name thrice (following each new marriage), and the last move was to Australia.

Managing a cross-border search requires excellent analytical skills and experienced field agents – thankfully, our people tracing team has them in abundance.

Blackhawk Intelligence can help

If you are an executor, a solicitor or a probate specialist who needs to find a missing or unknown beneficiary, call us on +44 (0)20 8108 9317 or use our online form to get in touch today.

We can also help individuals who want to track down missing relatives when drafting a will, thereby minimising search efforts in the future.

We are discreet and legal; above all, we respect confidentiality.

This post is intended to provide information of general interest about current business issues. It should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

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