How do we find the other heirs?

Annie Shaw / 11 April 2017

Annie Shaw answers a reader's dilemma about locating other heirs in order to inherit.


My husband’s late uncle left a life interest in his estate to his wife, who has herself only recently died. 

He left the residue to his godchildren, of whom my husband is one, and they now inherit. The will was written in the 1970s and the children indicated only by name, with no addresses or date of birth to help identify them.

The solicitor is, not surprisingly, finding it difficult to locate the other godchildren and can’t wind up the estate until he has, or at least until he has made a reasonable effort to do so. He doesn’t seem to be doing much apart from putting an advertisement in a local paper. 

The amount at stake does not warrant employing ‘heir hunters’. I understand we can buy insurance in case heirs we can’t find eventually come forward, but that seems expensive too. 

Is there anything else we can do?

Read Paul Lewis' guide to inheritance tax


In a similar heir hunt, I cracked the problem by joining genealogy websites and local history groups on Facebook, and posting on the websites of local newspapers in areas I thought might be relevant. 

In each case I asked if anyone knew people with the names I was looking for. I then found addresses on old electoral rolls (the newer ones are not so easily accessible) and wrote to them speculatively. 

After several months, and quite a few dead ends, I eventually turned up trumps on all the missing names, and presented the information to the solicitors. 

Two of the beneficiaries had died – so the estate was shared between a smaller number, meaning each survivor received a bigger sum.

Annie Shaw

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The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.