‘Who do you think you are?’ – the rise of heir hunting

Philip Turvey

Business Leader recently spoke to Philip Turvey, Executive Director of Anglia Research to discuss the rise of the ‘heir hunting’ industry.

Can you give me an overview of the company?

Anglia Research is a probate genealogy and heir location firm, offering asset reunification and legal support services. The firm’s founder, Peter Turvey – my father – was adopted at a very young age and discovered a passion for genealogy after trying to locate his biological parents back in the 70s.

He then went on to set up Anglia Research in 1979, initially to help other people trace their own ancestry. As the firm grew, he shifted his focus to probate genealogy and delivering best in class research and services for beneficiaries, which is the vision under which we still operate.

Now we employ more accredited genealogists, legally qualified and independently regulated staff than any other UK probate research company and our services have been featured on popular TV programmes, including the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?

What is probate genealogy and why have you been so popular?

The practice involves teams of professionals tracing next of kin when a person dies without a will, which is the case for about one in three deaths in the UK at the moment, but also where they have no known next-of-kin.

The process starts via a genealogical investigation to identify who is the closest next-of-kin that is entitled to inherit the deceased’s assets. We then use a number of databases to locate beneficiaries and contact them, either by post or phone call.

We certainly have been boosted by the popularity of TV shows like Who Do You Think You Are, but we’re also known for the integrity we bring to our work. As founding members of the Association of Probate Researchers (APR), transparency lies at the heart of what we do. Our clients value the relationships we build with them, which are founded on trust, honesty and a complete commitment to reunite them with what is rightfully theirs.

What services does your firm offer?

Our bread and butter is probate genealogy – where we conduct a genealogical investigation into the family and next of kin of a deceased person and identify who would be entitled to inherit their estate under the relevant law.

But our expertise in using historical records to identify individuals, assets and estates has created a number of other opportunities for us over the years. Now, as well as probate genealogy, we can also offer our clients bankruptcy searches, dormant asset reunification, statutory will research and estate administration.

You took over the day-to-day running of the business from your father – did you have the same vision for the future of the business?

Definitely! Taking the step to lead Anglia Research alongside my father was one of the easiest decisions in the world. We’ve worked together for a long time and seen the firm grow from one office in Ipswich to an international operation with offices in London, Edinburgh, Dublin and Kingston, Jamaica and associated offices in Australia, Canada and the United States.

Business growth has been facilitated by my father and I sharing a joint vision. While under my father’s leadership, we helped create the Association of Probate Researchers and committed to boosting transparency, credibility and authenticity in the sector. This is a commitment that I’ve maintained and I’m proud that Anglia Research is a bastion for authenticity and trustworthiness in a sector often dominated by ruthless competition.

What are some of the more interesting cases you have come across?

I’ve worked on lots of interesting cases during my time with Anglia Research. The job can feel very fulfilling when beneficiaries use the inheritance to improve their lives, or when our research leads to people being reunited with family members they would otherwise never have known about.

One case that springs to mind started with the death of an elderly lady in a care home. She’d always claimed to staff that she had no family to speak of. However, when we conducted a genealogical investigation it turned out she had two younger half-sisters, none of whom knew about each other at all. Sadly, the half-sisters never got to meet their older sister who had died but having put them in contact with each other they now meet up regularly to catch up and share family stories.

What does the future hold for the company?

Like every business, our aim is to continue growing. We’ve had a really successful year and launched new offices in the Caribbean. A key aim for the future is to continue our expansion into other areas of the world and improve our global offering to our clients.

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