In a series of Supporters in Focus pieces, we are thrilled to introduce our supporters of The British Wills and Probate Awards 2021
Alongside headline sponsor Executor Solutions we look forward to recognising achievement, highlighting progression and championing innovation.
Today we profile Court of Protection Team of the Year sponsors Anglia Research.
We’re delighted to have Anglia Research on board with the fourth year of The British Wills & Probate Awards. First of all, tell us who you are and what you do
Anglia Research provides probate genealogical services to the legal profession, local authorities and private Deputyship companies. We have more accredited genealogists and independently regulated staff than any other UK research company. We specialise in tracing and locating lost heirs, missing beneficiaries, unknown next of kin and unclaimed assets, both in the UK and worldwide.
Now in our sixth decade, Anglia Research’s expertise and diligence has led to the successful administration of thousands of estates. We also locate title holders to abandoned properties and offer consultancy to media companies and others, on a range of historical and genealogical issues.
What have Anglia Research been doing over the past 9 months since The British Wills & Probate Awards 2020?
We have continued to promote ethical and transparent practice within the probate genealogy sector and taken steps to improve our sector’s relationship with local authorities. Part of this involved an FOI request – sent out to all local authorities in England and Wales – which investigated the impact of heir hunters on the probate process and reviewed the policies local authorities have in place when working with probate genealogists.
Alongside this, we have supported local authorities in dealing with the influx of deaths caused by the pandemic, with our FOI report finding that intestate deaths rose by 60% in the first lockdown. Like every probate genealogy firm committed to ethical practice, we have assisted the local authorities we work with who are time-stretched and, in some cases, struggling to maintain due diligence amid the influx of intestate deaths caused by COVID-19.
What do you think is the biggest challenge the sector has faced over the last 12 months?
While COVID-19 has created numerous difficulties for probate genealogists, the biggest issue in the sector continues to be a lack of independent regulation and ethical practice. Membership to regulatory bodies – such as the Association of Probate Researchers – remains voluntary and therefore, the industry has become awash with unethical heir hunters engaging in dubious, underhand practices.
Our FOI request – which surveyed every local authority in England and Wales – highlighted this issue, finding that only 22% of local authorities believed heir hunters operated transparently and honestly.
Trying to increase membership to these bodies and create regulation that promotes industry-wide ethical practice is certainly the biggest challenge probate genealogy has faced over the past 12-months, and it will continue to be an issue until every firm puts the needs of beneficiaries ahead of making a quick buck.
And what innovations were you seeing in the market?
The COVID-19 lockdowns created sizeable headaches for business leaders, with one such headache for our sector being the closure of record repositories and archives. Studying physical records is an area we are experts in, and it seemed, on the surface, that this would be nullified if we shifted to a total digital-first approach.
However, throughout the pandemic, it’s become clear that the probate genealogy sector is ready to innovate. The transition to working from home was far smoother than any of us expected and now, as we appear to be on the precipice of normality, there are some aspects of our work we will keep digital for the foreseeable future.
What are your predictions for the sector in 2022 and beyond?
We hope that the end of the COVID-19 pandemic marks a turning point in the probate genealogy sector. We are currently at a crossroads, where we can either go back to the way things were before or move forward and address the issues that existed before the pandemic.
Thankfully, we are seeing more and more interest in moving towards more transparent and ethical practice. We hope to see this trend continue and to see more firms join independent self-regulatory bodies, such as the Association of Probate Researchers.
Have you got any messages for the sector and our shortlisters?
We’d like to wish all those shortlisted the very best of luck and congratulate the sector as a whole in overcoming the numerous pandemic-related challenges presented since last March.
Thank you to Anglia Research for their support for The British Wills & Probate Awards 2020.
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