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Heir hunter loses out in High Court inheritance dispute

19th June 2013

The deceased man had been intestate (died without a will) and the genealogist had sought out a brother in Ukraine in order to pass on the inheritance and collect a fee for his services.

However, the Second World War veteran had a daughter who had been adopted at the age of 13 and although this made her unable to inherit by right, she had kept in touch with her biological father who gifted her his house, valued at £250,000, shortly before he died.

In the first instance, a judge at Oxford County Court ruled in favour of the daughter on the basis that the gift had been given “in contemplation of his impending death”.

An appeal was lodged in the High Court by the genealogist on behalf of the Ukrainian relations, but the judge ruled that the house, the deceased’s only substantial asset, fell outside of the estate as it had been a valid eleventh-hour gift to his biological daughter.

The ‘heir hunter’ was also ordered to pay the daughter’s costs in the case as his argument that he had taken a neutral stance in the claim because he “owed a duty” to the Ukrainian relatives, and therefore should be exempt from paying the costs, was dismissed. The judge said he had been acting in the hope of financial gain and was therefore fully liable.

Wills solicitors in the UK advise all home owners to make a will at the earliest opportunity to ensure that the asset passes successfully, and without dispute, to the beneficiary of their choice.


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