I am currently dealing with an estate where my client has 1,000 pounds which we need to distribute. She does not have a will and died intestate. She has no children and her parents have died. She has 9 siblings, many of which have passed away. She does have nieces and nephews from the deceased siblings who live in Australia and America. We have contacted some family members to assist in the distribution amongst the siblings and nieces/nephews however no one is ready to assist. As the amount is so small, is there any way around this? The amount of work involved in locating the siblings, nieces and nephews is going to be very expensive, it does not seem financially reasonable.
I sympathise. I have a similar matter where I have in my client account about £5,000 which is due on intestacy to a pool of beneficiaries , now numbering over 40, which expands with every enquiry I make. There are also large parts of the family tree about which there are no leads that I have been able to find. I think the estate is going to be exhausted by the cost of my efforts, which is an outcome that I find deeply unappealing but at the moment seems inevitable.
My mistake was to accept a sum of money which NS& I sent me in return to my initial enquiry letter. My client (the only relative with whom the deceased maintained contact) was pleased to find that she wasn’t going to have to pay for the funeral herself and instructed me to pay it in. I should have declined!
I infer from this that it is too late for you to refuse to act, but faced with the same situation again, that is what I would do.
The cost of missing beneficiary insurance for a small estate is likely to be very high.
I have enquired of the SRA if this would be eligible for treatment under the unclaimed client funds rules under which certain client account balances can be paid to charity. In my case I have been told that I need first to make adequate attempts to ascertain the proper destination of the money. If your firm is holding the money it would be worth your while to look closely at the requirements set out in rule 20.2 of the Solicitors Accounts Rules 2011