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Von Langen
Forensic Genealogists &
International Investigations
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Concerns with Foreign Heir Hunting Companies Now Operating in the US

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US-based heir-hunting companies have long targeted unresolved estates in the US, using these estates as an opportunity for profit, and sometimes causing chaos for estate administrators and executors. In recent years, three of the nation’s oldest heir location companies have been the subject of federal indictments and prosecution for such crimes as collusion and conspiracy to eliminate competition. When these American heir hunting companies act illegally, victims have recourse through the criminal justice system. When heir hunters stifle competition or misrepresent the authenticity of an heir to executors or the probate court, these companies are within the reach of American law enforcement organizations, which can impose harsh penalties. Learn more about how foreign heir hunters can possibly threaten the integrity of heir hunting.

New threat from Foreign Heir Hunters

However, penalizing misbehaving companies that operate in the US becomes much more difficult when they are based not in the US, but abroad. Von Langen, LLC has recently learned from one of our German partners that another German heir-hunting company is now attempting to expand into the US market. The encroachment of foreign companies into the US market poses a threat to the integrity of heir location for multiple reasons. These foreign heir hunting companies are essentially in competition with both US-based heir location services and the estate administrators and executors attempting to locate rightful heirs to whom the estate should be distributed.

The foreign heir-hunting companies, like their American counterparts, often work on a contingency fee basis, taking a percentage of the heir’s recovery from the estate. Unlike American companies, however, there is far less opportunity to hold these companies responsible should they employ dubious or outright-illegal business practices. When heirs are located by foreign companies, estate administrators are also unable to rely on the representations of the attorney working for the foreign heir hunters. Not only might these administrators and executors be racing against foreign heir hunters to locate rightful heirs; they might also be persuaded by these companies into believing that an heir has been verified, only to discover too late that the claim is false. Unlike with American companies, these administrators cannot rely on the representations of attorneys working for heir hunters when defending their decision to trust these claims, and estate administrators will be hard-pressed to hold foreign companies responsible for their deceitful behavior. In the current climate of the heir location business, it is more important now than ever to choose seasoned, trustworthy, and well-established forensic genealogists for heir location assistance. In such cases where the administrators have sought the expertise of Von Langen, LLC, our research has led to the conclusion that the heir hunters had either misrepresented who the heirs were or failed to disclose all the rightful heirs to the court.

If you’re in need of the services of skilled and professional forensic genealogists and heir locators, contact the offices of Von Langen, LLC at 561-748-2936.