Often individuals have a sound and seemingly concrete understanding of their family tree, however, this may not always prove true.
A family tree, otherwise known ancestry chart, is a visual documentation or representation of one’s ancestry. Genealogy uses family trees to visually present family histories and generations aside from existing historical records, genetic analysis and biographical information to study one’s family history. An ordinary and simple use of a family tree is when schools require children to make family tree projects to learn about their own family history starting from the generation of their grandparents, to their parents until their young generation. But in a much more important and legal sense, family trees have a deeper and bigger purpose especially when it comes to intestacy and finding missing beneficiaries.
Intestacy and Family Tree Verification
Intestacy is the state of a person dying without a will. The probate court is responsible for matters regarding wills, estates, conservatorships and guardianships. In typical order, the surviving spouse will receive the inheritance then the children followed by the relatives and other extended family members. If it happens that the dying person doesn’t have any descendants, this is where the family tree’s role becomes important.
Part of intestacy research is to trace the line of inheritance in the family tree starting with the parents, siblings, grandparents, parents’ siblings, grandparents’ siblings and so on including remote degrees of kinship. A probate judge validates the deceased person’s will and who is entitled to collect them. The probate court will appoint an executor to distribute the property or asset. If there are no surviving descendants, the property or assets are typically returned to the state.
Family trees or testimonials are not always accurate. Tracing family lineage and ancestry to verify a family member who might be entitled to inherit an unclaimed asset can be complex. There are instances when adopted children may not be found in the family tree or family members who have lost touch for many years with the deceased person. Family tree verification services exist to help probate lawyers or solicitors ensure the validity of the identity of the heir/s.
Family tree verification process is similar to doing genealogy research. Aside from doing deep investigation on historical records, certificates, and other information, there are other important parts of the process to carefully evaluate the truth in these documents such as:
- There is more than one set of records that confirm the history and information of the missing beneficiary
- Always look for the original source of the information especially with information based on wild assumptions
- Get DNA evidence to support the claims of the person entitled to the inheritance.
Probate and Administration Act 1898 (NSW) and other legislations
Intestacy law varies in every country, state or jurisdiction. Especially in Australia, the Probate and Administration Act 1898 (NSW) is the law that is enacted when the probate is granted. There are certain rules in this Act that solicitors must take note of such as Section 92 (3) referring to the distribution of the assets relating to Children (Equality of Status) Act 1976 or the rights of children of unmarried parents to the estates of intestate relatives.
Blended families are now common in Australia where 6.4% are stepfamilies while 3.7% are blended families. Are stepchildren allowed to receive inheritance? A stepchild, as defined by the Family Law Act of 1975, is a child who is not biologically related to the stepparent. The Inheritance (Family Provisions) Act 1972 states that stepchildren can make claims under specific circumstances.
What we offer
Worthington Clark has an extensive network of partners in multiple states nationwide as well as in the international genealogy community to provide us with accurate tools and the support we need for our family tree verification services. We have a team of highly-experienced researchers to track down information about missing beneficiaries to establish entitlements to an intestate estate, identify parties interested in estate proceedings or to verify relatives in a will in progress.
Tell us what you need help with
Our Worthington Clark genealogists and researchers are highly trained to conduct accurate, sophisticated and well-detailed research processes to best benefit our clients.