What is the Fairness Campaign?

  • Title Research is publicly campaigning against the unfair and potentially unlawful sales tactics used by so called ‘heir hunters’ to sign-up beneficiaries to excessive percentage fees. Our ‘Fairness Campaign’ has received widespread media coverage and we are calling for better regulation to root out unfair practices and to protect consumers.
  • Over the last 18 months, this issue has been covered in 96 regional newspapers and 9 national media outlets (including Daily Mail, the Mirror, the Independent on Sunday, the Telegraph and Radio 4’s You and Yours) much of which has been very critical of excessive heir hunter fees.
  • Significant concerns are being expressed by the legal profession and consumers about percentage fees, or so called “contingency fees”, used by a number of heir locator firms.
  • Heir hunter fees range between 10-30% of an inheritance, but they can be as high as 40%. Fees at this level, particularly on a large inheritance, are excessive and disproportionate to the amount of work involved in locating heirs.
  • To protect their percentage fee, heir hunters will usually withhold the name the deceased and the value of the inheritance until the beneficiary agrees to pay their fee. This means beneficiaries are being asked to sign away a percentage of an unknown amount. Independent research undertaken by the market research agency, Opinium, found that 40% of people who are found by heir locators felt under pressure to pay a fee.
  • The alternative method of charging for finding missing beneficiaries is a time based or fixed fee, which will invariably be fairer for the estate. This method of charging is consistent with the way in which probate solicitors charge for their time to administer an estate.
  • Example: A time based fee for a case would typically be £1000-5000 regardless of the size of the estate. A percentage fee will rise proportionally with the value of the estate, so on an estate worth £300,000, a percentage based fee would soar to between £30,000 and £90,000.
  • We are engaging with the legal profession who we hope will support best practice in this area. We are also putting our case to Society of Trust & Estate Practitioners, the Institute of Legal Executives and the Law Society Probate Section and consumer organisations. We have been contacted by scores of solicitors who support our campaign (see following pages).
  • We believe there is a need for better consumer protection for beneficiaries who feel they have been overcharged or treated unfairly.

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