Estate search reunites long-lost loved ones
Sometimes a magical thing happens inside the Public Trustee that changes peoples’ lives forever.
In April this year, this happened to George Parker*. One afternoon, out of the blue, George received a phone call from the Public Trustee. He was surprised and saddened to hear that his sister Marie*, who he hadn’t seen for more than 40 years, had recently passed away. He was also informed that unfortunately she had died without a valid Will, known as dying ‘intestate’, and he appeared to be the only known next of kin, possibly making him the only beneficiary of Marie’s estate.
About 20 percent of Queenslanders die Intestate (without a valid Will) and the Public Trustee’s Intestacy Entitlement Unit supports more than 150 cases each year where someone has no known beneficiaries at the time of death.
Researchers at the Public Trustee can spend months or years tracking down the rightful beneficiaries of an unclaimed deceased estate, and many times this leads to uniting families that didn’t even know another relative existed.
Initially, the Public Trustee was informed that Marie, who originated from England, had no surviving family. According to those who knew Marie well, her spouse and only child had died more than 40 years ago.
The Public Trustee’s researchers explored the National Archive and discovered that Marie and her brother George had immigrated with their parents to Australia in 1955. They managed to locate George in Queensland and made contact with him.
The next step was to confirm the death of Marie’s spouse and child. After thorough investigation, the team discovered, to their surprise, that Marie’s daughter Monique* was still alive and well, and also living in Queensland.
The Public Trustee’s researchers were able to inform George that not only did he have a niece, but she was living within a short distance from him.
George was so happy to find Monique. Now in his 70s, and with no children of his own, finding his niece “has been the most precious gift for me,” he said.
“I can’t believe she was living so close to me all this time. Now we speak to each other three or four times a week on the phone, and it’s wonderful just knowing I am not alone, and I have family.”
Acting Public Trustee and CEO Samay Zhouand said the Public Trustee of Queensland is one of the largest administrators of estates in the state, and due to the complexity of Intestate Estates often families and legal practitioners refer these matters to the Public Trustee for their expertise.
“Our responsibility is to confirm relatives who are entitled to a share of a person’s estate,” he said. “Sometimes this can be a simple process, but when there are complications, or when overseas research is required, estates are referred to our specialist family tree researchers in the Intestate Entitlement Unit.”
The Unit carries out investigations in accordance with the state’s Succession Act to identify, locate and certify relatives that are entitled to an estate before it can be distributed. The Public Trustee also carries out research when a person has died with a Will but a beneficiary cannot be found.
Some of the ways beneficiaries are tracked include using genealogy records, the electoral role, online historical indexes, probate records, media searches and Births Deaths and Marriages records. Other methods include Ancestry.com, census information on findmypast.com and a dedicated Facebook site established by the Public Trustee to conduct searches across Facebook sites.
Mr Zhouand said George’s story is just one of many incredible, heart-warming stories from within the Public Trustee that often go untold.
“Our main aim is to find beneficiaries and connect them with potential assets that are lawfully theirs,” he said.
“Our specialist family tree researches trawl through numerous pieces of information, and bit by bit the family’s story is revealed. During this process, as in George’s case, our research often uncovers unknown relatives and reconnects families who have been estranged for decades.
“It really is one of the most wonderfully, gratifying experiences for our people. No one story or one family is the same, but each renewed connection, which enriches their lives, is nothing short of magic!”
“It is an honour and a privilege to support Queensland families through this difficult time and to provide renewed relations that change people’s lives forever,” he said.
*All names have been changed to protect our customers’ privacy.