Fraser and Fraser: Genealogy and Probate Services

The probate research market has changed considerably in the 50-plus years that Fraser and Fraser has been in business. Societal shifts such as falling marriage rates, increasingly fractured families and a rise in people choosing to live far away from the areas (or countries) where they grew up have all had an impact and, where once we might have been generally looking for distant cousins, often we now find ourselves locating much nearer kin such as siblings, nephews and nieces.

Fraser and Fraser

The Probate Research

Technology has played its part in probate research, in many ways making research quicker and easier. Often, however, the real skill when using new technology is realising its limitations and understanding what it cannot do. Particularly in more complicated cases, for example those involving widely scattered families, common surnames, or an international element (or all three together). There is no substitute for expert local knowledge and on-the-ground investigations.

For example, the mid-19th century in Ireland can be a challenging time for genealogical researchers. Following the Great Famine of 1845-49 many people emigrated and records were either lost or individuals were just never registered. Factor in surnames that may have been misspelt or copied down incorrectly, plus a further loss of records during the uprising of 1916 and it is easy to see that sometimes the most effective route can be for someone to check church and parish records by hand.

The popularity of TV shows such as Heir Hunters and Who Do You Think You Are has also had its effect. In particular, they have brought a considerable number of sole practitioners into the market. Sometimes individuals with relatively limited resources and experience, who may struggle to provide requisite levels of insurance and adequately to research the more difficult cases, where an established firm such as Fraser and Fraser benefits from our long-established network of offices and agents.

Fraser and Fraser

Fraser and Fraser’s Solution

As a firm, Fraser and Fraser’s aim is to provide peace of mind, value for money and transparency to their solicitor clients. One way they achieve this, is by finding thousands of missing relatives every year, but they are also able to arrange missing beneficiary indemnity insurance from several providers. This can be especially useful in complicated cases and guards against a beneficiary, such as a known family member who cannot be traced or an unknown family member not identified through research, coming forward after the distribution of an estate and creating disputes in the future. 

In a similar vein, another service that has proved very popular with their solicitor clients in recent years is their free family tree check. This provides another way to protect against unknown beneficiaries appearing when least expected, bringing with them additional work and costs.

All Fraser and Fraser need is the information that’s already been obtained about the deceased’s family. This will be checked through before highlighting any areas that they believe require more detailed research and documentation. In addition, they will also recommend any further areas of research that they feel are necessary to identify and locate additional unknown beneficiaries.

In some instances solicitors may find themselves working on cases where the deceased has neither made a will nor has any obvious relatives. Before anyone refers such an estate to the government legal department, it is worthwhile to make absolutely sure there are no next of kin who have a prior claim to the Crown. For this reason, Fraser and Fraser offers an effective administrator search service, which they supply to their solicitor clients on the basis that if they can’t find a suitable personal representative, then no fees will apply.

On these occasions, Fraser and Fraser’s aim is to locate a relative who is willing and able to act as a personal representative. It is also worth noting that more than 90 per cent of the administrators they locate go on to instruct their solicitor clients. However, if the personal representative they find chooses not to do so, they will not charge them a fee.

Not only are people now more likely to find a new life in other countries, their assets may also be located in a variety of territories. In response to this development, Fraser and Fraser is a certified guarantor of the official Securities Transfer Agents Medallion Program, which makes them particularly well placed to work on estates with links to the US or Canada. We have found this especially useful in dealing with estates that include shares in former UK firms that were bought out by US organisations, with Kraft’s purchase of Cadbury in 2010 being a prime example.

Fraser and Fraser

Fraser and Fraser’s Legacy

Throughout Fraser and Fraser’s work they pride themselves on their ability to provide cost-effective solutions and transparency in their billing, with fee structures that are easily understood and determined by the type of work required. In addition, as a relatively large organisation that employs researchers in addition to case managers, they have more flexibility in terms of who is deployed to a case.

It was a similar determination to bring clarity to the sector and peace of mind to their clients. That led them in 2016 to establish the Association of Probate Researchers (APR) as a voluntary regulator for the industry. This willingness to lead the market also helped Fraser and Fraser to win the Paralegal Business of the Year Award at the National Paralegal Awards last year, an accolade of which they are incredibly proud of and of which PLG feel it’s incredibly deserved.

To view the full interview of Darren Leggett and Nick Howitt explaining more about Fraser and Fraser’s services, visit our Youtube channel.

To find out more about Fraser and Fraser visit their website, or contact them by calling +44 (0) 20 7832 1400 or email info@fraserandfraser.co.uk