What is a Probate Genealogist?

Probate Genealogists determine and locate missing or unidentified beneficiaries to estates. When a person dies intestate, meaning without having written a legally acceptable Will, the law of intestate succession will govern who inherits their estate. A probate genealogist traces all individuals who are entitled to a share of the estate. This involves carefully researching the decedent’s family history to identify their closest eligible blood relations.
All this relies upon detailed genealogical research, and a thorough understanding of laws of intestate succession, which differ by jurisdiction. After an eligible next-of-kin has been identified, the genealogist sets about locating them. Once the genealogist has located the potential beneficiary, they will work with them through the process of proving their entitlement as heir.

What Is Probate Court?

Probate court also referred to as a surrogate court, is where estates of deceased persons are decided. Even in situations with a Will, and with all the heirs known and present, a Will has to be deemed valid by a probate court judge before the executor can proceed to settle the estate. In intestate estates, the judge will review the submissions of potential heirs at law and rule on their entitlement.

Why Genealogy Reports Are Important in Probate Court?

In situations where the identity or validity of potential heirs is in question, reports on genealogy can sometimes be required in probate court. This might occur if there is no valid Will and no spouse or children. In such a situation, the eligible next of kin (be they siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins) would make a claim to this estate. Depending on their closeness of the relationship, a genealogy report could be necessary to deem them eligible. Additionally, such a report would be needed to determine how many potential heirs have a claim, taking into account both paternal and maternal relations of the descendant.
Finally, different degrees of relation are entitled to different portions of the estates. For instance, a cousin of the descendant would need to prove a) they are a cousin b) the status of any other cousins of the descendant living or dead c) what portion of the estate their relationship would entitle them to receive. A genealogy report could prove crucial. Here are a few probate genealogy examples:
Probate Genealogy Example #1

John Doe has died with no Will. His wife predeceased him, they had no children, and John has no siblings. His first cousin Jane is a potential heir. She is the daughter of John’s mother’s brother, thereby making her a maternal first cousin. Jane knew John and put forward a claim to his estate. Jane is John’s only maternal cousin, however, he also has some cousins on his father’s side. These paternal cousins will be heirs to a degree equal to Jane. She will need a genealogy report to prove her relationship to John, as well as John’s relationship with his paternal cousins. She will not only have to prove that she is the only maternal cousin, but also trace and locate the paternal cousins, about whom she knows nothing, but with whom she will need to share the estate. For this, she may well need the services of a probate genealogist.

Probate Genealogy Example #2

Mary Green has died with no Will. She was not married and had no children. Mary’s parent moved to Canada from the United Kingdom before she was born. She was an only child and had no cousins living in Canada. Mary’s mother’s sister had moved to the United States. She has died but her son Thomas Blue is still alive. Thomas is contacted by a genealogist in Canada and informed he might be eligible to inherit Mary’s estate. Thomas however, never knew Mary. In fact, he has never heard of her.
In order to get to this stage, the genealogist had to find who was eligible for Mary’s estate. Thomas did not know her, so he could not put in the claim himself. The genealogist looked back at Mary’s family history. They researched records of her parent’s lives and found her maternal aunt. They found records of her aunt’s immigration to the United States as well as her marriage, and the birth of her son Thomas. They determined that Thomas is the only eligible relative on either Mary’s mother or father’s side. The genealogist then tracked down Thomas, made contact with him, and informed him of his inheritance. They will now help Thomas through the complicated process of claiming Mary’s estate.

Probate Genealogy Example #3

Henry Apple has died with no will. Henry had a successful business and leaves behind a considerable fortune. He was single and had no children. Henry’s father had been married multiple times and had children from two of his previous marriages. These are Henry’s half-siblings and his closest blood relations. However, these siblings had lost contact with Henry’s father years before Henry was born and he never knew of them. They were older than Henry and died before he did, but they both have sons and daughters. Though he did not know them these people are Henry’s nieces and nephews, are heirs to his estate. One of these nephews, Jim Grape, is contacted by a genealogist. He is informed that he, his siblings and his cousins are heirs to Henry’s estate. Jim has never heard of Henry so the genealogist familiarizes him with his family tree and deceased uncle. They will now begin the process of claiming the estate.

TD Howes & Co. Ltd. Unique Approach To Probate Genealogy

Ultimately, results are what distinguishes a great probate genealogist from their peers. Our organization has years of experience and strong networks of colleagues in different jurisdictions that can assist in locating and proving heirs. We carefully research archival records, some dating back centuries, collaborate with researchers around the world and make innovative use of Internet technology and social media. Through all of this, we produce results of which we are proud of.
This work became the inspiration for our subsequent work in probate research, genealogy and heir tracing. Since 1990, we have switched our focus to finding missing or unknown heirs to estates. This involves both cases in which the heirs are named in the Will, but have lost contact with the decedent, and cases in which there was no Will, and rightful had to be determined and found. We are proud to have enriched many people, assisted them in learning previously unknown family history, and, when requested, connected them with long-lost relatives.

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