1. Campaigning against anti-competitive practices
The articles and documents below arose from our ongoing research into the role and statutory duties of local authorities when dealing with those who die intestate with no known next of kin.
We welcome your comments on our consultation document – Local Authorities and Heir Hunters: Exposing the opaque and uncompetitive practices that lead to consumer exploitation and inheritance errors. For an in-depth view of the probate research industry, including numerous case histories of beneficiaries who have fallen victim to heir hunters working exclusively, please see the draft version of this report.
For most of England and Wales, Government policy is that when someone dies intestate, with no known next of kin, the estate should be referred to the Bona Vacantia Division “as soon as possible aſter death”. However, some intestacies cannot be referred – either because the value of the estate is below £500, or there is good reason to believe that relatives exist.
In these cases, we recommend that councils advertise intestacy details on their own websites, in a similar way to the unclaimed estates list. Alternatively, they can encourage competition and prevent abuse by referring each case to a number of genealogists concurrently. We have devised a simple, practical model for this that you can read about here (for how to apply this model to empty homes work, see here).
- Local authorities: why do they use heir hunters? In 2015 Anglia Research began sending requests to local authorities under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. We wanted to gain an understanding of their use of genealogical researchers to trace next of kin when the authority needed to conduct a public health funeral. This is a report on the responses we received by November 2016.
- Myths about the Public Health Act and the duties of local authorities. Our research uncovered a minefield of misunderstandings about public health funerals and the related duties of local authorities. Here we look at both the myths and the facts.
- Guidance on the use by local authorities of genealogical researchers. This guidance note for local authorities dealing with an intestate death within their boundaries provides background details and points for consideration by chief legal and finance officers.
- When you scrap competition, who foots the bill? The practice of providing information to heir hunters on an exclusive basis has a number of unintended consequences. In this article we focus on the issue of excessive charges.
- The case for competition: transparency leads to better research. When local authorities refer cases to heir hunters on an exclusive basis they may risk adversely affecting the quality of research conducted, as this article explains.
- When councils pass heir hunters exclusive leads. In this article we look at yet another case that illustrates the problems caused when competition is circumvented.
Our draft code of practice on the use of genealogists or heir hunters by local authorities has been welcomed across the country. This is a voluntary code of practice that authorities may wish to adopt in order to promote probity and transparency, minimise risk and avoid reputational damage.
2. Campaigning against double-charging
In 2016 we launched our campaign against double charging for birth, marriage and death certificates.
- Double charging: unethical, unjustifiable and rife explains why we believe the practice is unlawful.
- An update to our campaign against double charging reports on the successes we have had in raising awareness of the issue within the legal community.
- Double charging: heir hunters continue to defend unethical practice analyses and refutes the flawed logic of an heir hunter who defends double charging.
- Judge orders refund of unfair charges reports on a claim we brought against an heir hunter, which we hope signals the beginning of the end for double charging.
3. Helping victims of negligence and malpractice
At Anglia Research we will do whatever we can to help next of kin who fall prey to unscrupulous heir hunters – and will always report fraudulent practice to the relevant authorities.