Signs of Predatory Heir Hunters
Predatory heir hunters are a common nuisance. They scour obituaries and databases to find unclaimed estates, identify the heirs, and then demand the rightful heirs pay exorbitant sums just to get the inheritance to which they are legally entitled. They prey on the fact that most people don’t know the law and don’t know any better. If you are contacted by someone purporting to represent the estate of a deceased relative, or claiming to be the gatekeeper of some inheritance you never knew about, watch out for the signs of predatory behavior. Reach out to a proper forensic genealogist for experienced and effective assistance proving your claim to an estate or identifying the proper heirs to an estate.
Their Contact and Business Information Doesn’t Check Out
If you are contacted by an heir hunter, before you engage with them, you should do your homework. Look up their business online. Check their business address, their contact phone number, their website, etc. Run a few searches online for their business name. You might find that they’ve given you fake information, or that their purported qualifications do not pan out.
They Won’t Give You the Details About the Estate
Heir hunters do not work for the estate. They are bounty hunters, taking an unconscionable chunk of the inheritance they “find” for you (often 25% or more). An heir researcher who actually works on behalf of the estate or trust will give you all the information you need about the estate and property in question, without making you sign away your rights to 1/4 of it sight-unseen.
They’ve Been Accused of Abusive Behavior
While you’re checking out the validity of their business information and qualifications, look for any reports to the Better Business Bureau, other government agencies, or other consumer fraud, abuse, or review databases. If this heir hunter has taken advantage of putative heirs or estate administrators in the past, there’s a chance that other folks have complained about them online.
They Give You Short Time Limits
If you are the proper heir to an estate, you generally have a decent amount of time to collect your inheritance. In fact, there’s a good chance that the administrator of the estate or trust is out there looking for you–possibly with the help of a proper forensic genealogist–and will find you eventually. When they find you, they’ll ensure you get the inheritance you are due at a fraction of the cost.
Predatory heir hunters will tell you that time is of the essence, that you need to sign their contract immediately or lose out on your right to your inheritance. This is a scam. They want you to sign away 25% or more of your inheritance to them before you can do your homework, and before the estate administrator can find you for free.
Take the time to consult with a lawyer and contact other family members to see if they’ve heard anything about the estate. If you wait, do your research, consult with an attorney, and either find the estate on your own or wait to be contacted by the estate administrator, you’ll get your entire inheritance instead of forfeiting a large portion of it unnecessarily.
They Tell You Not to Get Advice
If you’re contacted by an heir hunter and they want you to sign a contract, you should talk to a lawyer first. It’s generally good practice to talk to a lawyer before signing any contract that potentially involves a significant amount of money or property, especially if it’s an arena in which you are unfamiliar (such as estate administration or heir hunting). If the heir hunter tells you that you need to give an answer immediately, without the benefit of legal advice, you should immediately consider them suspect.
If you’re an estate administrator in need of experienced assistance identifying and locating missing heirs to an estate and for determination of heirship proceedings, or heir research services in order to satisfy due diligence requirements, contact the efficient and comprehensive forensic genealogists at Von Langen, LLC at 800-525-7722.