How can investors benefit from the services of probate researchers? What can a probate researcher do and not do? Find out!
A Seemingly Odd Pair, or a Power Couple?
“An investor is a person that allocates capital with the expectation of a future financial return.”
“Forensic genealogy is genealogical research, analysis, and reporting in cases with legal implications, often involving living individuals.”
Together, the pair work to achieve market dominance. “Market dominance is a measure of the strength of a brand, product, service, or firm, relative to competitive offerings.” While perhaps not inherently obvious, the partnership between an investor and a skilled probate researcher can prove invaluable.
Here are three examples that illustrate how investors can benefit from the assistance of probate researchers:
1) Probate Real Estate Investors
Example: A real estate investor wishes to purchase an abandoned home and suspects the homeowner may have died; yet, does not know the identities of any family members to approach to inquire about purchasing the home. The investment will nearly always be more profitable if the investor does not need to wait until the home is sold at auction due to liens. The home will likely sustain damage while sitting empty and become more expensive to prepare for re-sell. The longer the home sits unsold, the more likely competition will arise.
Abandoned property is often owned by individuals who have died “intestate,” meaning without a valid will. Each state maintains its own laws as to which family members will receive an inheritance from an intestate situation and in what percentage. This is called the “line of succession,” and laws vary from state to state.
Professional probate researchers (also called forensic genealogists) can conduct research to see if the homeowner is indeed deceased, and if so, who the potential heirs to the estate are.
2) Mineral Rights Investors
Example: Oil and gas rights to a specific property have been determined to be owned by a person who has been deceased for many years. An investor needs an estimate of how many descendants may be involved before deciding whether to pursue the investment further.
Probate researchers can conduct diagnostic research to estimate the number of heirs and estates which may be involved, allowing the investor to be better informed before deciding to purchase or lease the rights or move on to another potential investment.
3) Unclaimed Property Professionals
Example: A person with a substantial life insurance policy has died; yet, the gift has failed because the intended beneficiary died first, and the ownership of the proceeds have reverted back to the deceased person’s intestate estate. An unclaimed property professional would like to know who the potential heirs may be in order to contact them and see if they might be willing to become clients.
Please note, we at Legacy Tree Genealogists do not accept contingency payment offers in any form. The practice has been deemed unethical by courts and the genealogical forensic industry. Such contingency agreements can taint the research results and make the results inherently biased.
Secondary Services Offered by Probate Researchers
Most inventors are not interested in the entire estate processes. They only need the estate to be opened to allow the estate to sell the subject property. What happens through the remainder of the estate proceedings is immaterial to the investor after receiving clear title. Regardless, sometimes the investor’s clients and their attorneys may need a little help in determining the complete overall kinship of the decedent.
In such cases, the estate, not the investor (to protect against perceived bias), may subsequently hire a probate researcher. The probate researcher will conduct independent and unbiased in-depth research regarding the kinship of the decendent and present the findings. This will include attendant exhibits of evidence presented in the form of a notarized sworn affidavit, rather than the diagnostic research report produced for the investor.
Sworn affidavits are often needed when the heirs are ready to proceed into probate court. They constitute notarized sworn expert testimony submitted in written form to, 1) allow the court and other related parties to study the testimony and supporting exhibits before hearings take place; and 2) spare the estate the expense of having the affiant testify in person.
Affidavits prepared in the United States for use in courts located outside of the United States are also apostilled according to the Hague Apostille Treaty of 1961.
Affidavit of Diligent Search for Kinship
An Affidavit of Diligent Search for Kinship is made when we have diligently researched the entire succession line. In instances where a specific family member(s) was diligently looked for and was not found, the affidavit will detail the efforts that were undertaken.
As every family member effecting the line of succession must be searched for, and it is impossible to know before research starts how many total family members spread across how many jurisdictions there might be, such projects are conducted in two phases. The first phase is a small diagnostic project to gain a basic understanding of the size and scope of the succession line at hand. This short project includes the development of a detailed research plan and determination of the estimated budget needed to conduct the balance of research and to produce the final affidavit.
Affidavit of Diligent Search for Kinship with Limitation
An Affidavit of Diligent Search for Kinship with Limitation is made when research has been conducted, yet the estate requested a portion, and not the entire succession line, to be researched. The limitations are clearly disclosed in the affidavit.
What Probate Researchers Can’t Do
As probate researchers, we are not involved in the legal process of declaring a will valid/invalid, declaring an estate to be intestate, or determining which family members will actually become beneficiaries and receive an inheritance from the estate. Those are matters for the probate court to adjudicate. We do not provide legal advice in any form. As probate researchers we deal solely with matters of discovering “kinship;” discovering and documenting who the decedent’s deceased family members were and who their surviving family members are.
While the probate process for investors can be complicated, working with an experienced probate researcher can help expedite the process and significantly increase profitability. For more information about the probate research process and what to expect, review our Forensic & Probate Research FAQs.
As a trusted probate research firm, our forensic genealogists are experienced at providing expert genealogical research, analysis and reporting for legal proceedings involving kinship. Contact us today to request a free quote.
 “Investor,” Wikipedia, http://wikipedia.org, accessed May 2019.
 “Forensic Genealogy,” Wikipedia, http://wikipedia.org, accessed May 2019.
 “Dominance (economics),” Wikipedia, http://wikipedia.org, accessed May 2019.