Business development · 17 April 2020

Skills lessons from the “industry of the deceased”

Danny Curran and his company Finders International help families become reunited with inheritances they did not know they were due. Below, Curran shares skills lessons that all business owners can learn from the “industry of the deceased”.

1. Patience

Working in heir hunting requires patience incomparable with most other industries.

The average waiting time to investigate and wrap up a case can take anything from six months to ten years!  The benefit of this ‘long lead’ industry is that economic upturns and downturns don’t affect it as much as others.

However, the process is long and onerous. It involves working with public sector, private client legal departments, solicitors, family lawyers, trust and estate administration and global ‘unclaimed asset’ departments.  Making enquiries, requesting documents, proving identities and connections does not happen fast.

2. Persistence

Picture the scenario: You receive a letter through the post saying you could potentially be due an unknown inheritance. Is it spam or a scam?  No, it’s a genuine invitation from an heir hunter with an offer to help take on the case (for a pre agreed fee) if the company has deemed you are entitled by virtue of their research.

For members of the public, this can seem daunting. What’s helped us get through this is to be persistent in a sensitive manner, give as much information as is available, and ask members of the public to review our track record and credentials. This is an emotive situation, unlike contacting someone about reclaiming PPI, for example, and a deeply complex family matter than often cuts through decades of known and unknown family history.

3. Sensitivity

Empathy is the number one trait needed by heir hunters when helping beneficiaries.  We recently had to contact a brother of a sister who had died, to inform them they were next of kin. The brother didn’t realise he had a sister and as such opened up a painful family saga. After much time and patience, this allowed the brother to overcome many unanswered questions about his childhood history and make peace.  Reading how clients might react and being sensitive is absolutely crucial to this industry and what lacks in many others.

4. Being on-message

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc at the time of writing, talking about death and dying, and the industry that exists around it, isn’t always well received. But the probate research industry provides a hugely valuable public service. Yes, heir hunters get paid for their work, but they also help clients with numerous pro-bono cases where there is no value to an estate as an act of compassion – over 400 of these were completed last year alone by my firm.

Lessons to take with you

With more people claiming benefit, seeking mortgage holidays and other areas of support, it’s now more pressing than ever to reunite families with inheritances they might not know they’re due.

And here’s the lesson: Over the past 22 years we’ve shared stories of individuals who’s lives have been changed through receiving inheritance they didn’t know they were due. Often, individuals have connected with family histories they weren’t aware of, or family they’d never met. From individuals close to bankruptcy to a young man who received his grandfather’s lottery win that nobody knew of (he didn’t even know his grandfather).

These positive stories of transformation through the service we provide is just about the best “marketing” any company can hope to espouse. This isn’t specific to this industry – all sectors bring ‘pain relief’ to their clients, and if those stories can be told (client permitting), and are presented sensitively, and inspiringly, this is the best testament of success.

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Danny Curran is the owner of a leading heir hunting firm. As the founder of Finders International, he reunites unclaimed estates with their rightful heirs via the research skills of a 90 strong team. With a multi-million pound turnover and sights set on international expansion, the future looks bright for Curran and his team.

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