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Von Langen
Forensic Genealogists &
International Investigations
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Questions to Ask an Heir Hunter

a suspicious young woman looks through a magnifying glass

Unscrupulous heir hunters try to usurp the role of estate administrators and legitimate forensic genealogists by combing death notices and obituaries, tracking down unaware heirs, and then charging them exorbitant fees for connecting them with the inheritance they are rightfully owed under the law. If you or your clients are approached by an heir hunter, there are a few questions you and they should know to ask to make sure that they avoid the worst scams. Contact a professional and experienced forensic genealogist for qualified, legitimate, and thorough help identifying the proper heirs to an estate.

Who is the relative, and how am I related to them?

The putative heir should first attempt to learn the name of their deceased relative and their relationship. Quite often, heir hunters will not reveal that information until after the heir has agreed to their commission fee, which may prevent the heirs from conducting their own research and filing their own claims. Heirs should consider the heir hunter may still be due a reasonable fee before revealing the name and relationship to the relative.

What is the value of the estate, and how much is my share?

Heir hunters will try to get putative heirs to agree to their services before they know how much they are actually going to get and, in turn, how much they will be paying for the heir hunter’s services. An heir can ask after the total value of the estate and the number of other heirs to get a sense of their claim. If the heir hunter will not provide this information, or if they do not have it, an heir could eventually learn this for themselves by reaching out to the administrator of the estate.

What is the fee?

Heir hunters are known to charge hefty fees for their services, sometimes as much as 35 to 40 percent of the inherited amount. That fee may be well in excess of a reasonable cost or value of these services as rendered. Even if the heirs consider accepting an offer, they can refuse to pay such high fees.

How much time has the heir hunter spent looking for you?

If the heir does appreciate the service, they can ask how long it took to track them down. That will give them a better grasp of how much the service should be worth. Note: Most heir hunters do not provide services to heirs or the legal profession based on an hourly rate.

Don’t feel pressured

It is important to keep in mind that you should not worry if you do not wish to assign an heir hunter a commission immediately. You are still entitled to your inheritance under the law. In many cases, the administrator for the estate may have hired a legitimate forensic genealogist who will locate you for an economical fee to be paid as an expense to the estate.

If you’re an estate administrator in need of skilled help with identifying and locating missing heirs to an estate, or you are a purported heir in need of help evaluating the legitimacy of heir hunters, contact the efficient and effective forensic genealogists Von Langen, LLC at 561-748-2936.