Black, white and no ‘Gray’ in the middle

13 March 2015

In life, there are many things which are either black or white or sometimes black and white, like pandas and pianos. There really is no ‘gray’ in the middle, particularly in the piano sense. I am Gray by name though, so I guess that I am in the middle. I am a completer finisher (according to Belbin), though I have to confess to having some other pretty strong team role elements as well. Are you a plant or a resource investigator, a co-ordinator or a shaper?


Genealogy is black or white. It’s right or wrong, no middle ground, no ‘Gray’ in the middle…. So, how do we ensure we have the case nailed down correctly, whether it’s an intestacy matter, family history research project or whatever….? We need to have a raft of documentary evidence to prove our conclusions.

As what is now known more commonly as ‘Heir Hunters‘, we work in a risky field. The list of intestate estates is listed on a daily (as opposed to previously, weekly) basis and all the companies work from that same list. We carry out genealogical research to locate the family members and the challenge is to sign the beneficiaries on the listed estates.

But what happens when we document our research, administer the estate in accordance with the law and then something flies in from left-field? In June 2013, Celtic Research lost a court battle for £250,000 inheritance after a judge handed it to the daughter of the deceased man who had been given up for adoption. A shocking case, fully reported by The Telegraph (and undoubtedly other newspapers), in which the judge ruled that Mr Birchwood had acted “in the hope of financial gain and should incur the consequences of having done so”, the report stated that Mr Birchwood was philosophical about the outcome and, whilst declining to reveal the likely size of the costs bill, he stated that “the judge made a decision that wasn’t backed by the law, but that’s how it goes; we will just carry on working at things.”

So, Heir Hunters beware…. this is a guy (company) who knows what he (they) is (are) doing, did his (their) research correctly and administered the estate appropriately. He (they) still ‘came unstuck’…. Don’t do this job unless you know your stuff and even if you do, make sure you’re insured against ridiculous cases like this one.

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