Colorado Probate Blog - Wade Ash Woods Hill & Farley, P.C.

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Heir Location Service Industry Problems

At the end of 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice brought charges against a California-based heir location services provider. The DOJ has a number of ongoing antitrust investigations into customer allocation, price fixing, bid rigging and other anticompetitive conduct that runs rampant in the heir location service industry. Consumers will benefit from the Department of Justice shining a light on this industry.

Heir location service industry firms provide a valuable service. They identify people who may be entitled to an inheritance from the estate of a relative who died without a will. However, this industry has some traps that the consumer should be aware of. Some firms charge a fee based upon a percentage of the inheritance the individual seeks. Other more reputable firms simply charge either a flat fee or an hourly rate for the time involved in finding an heir. The consumer seeking out this service should always insist up front that reasonable fees will be charged.

In addition, a conflict of interest may arise if the heir location service industry firm refers the heir to a specific attorney. A smart consumer should always make sure that their attorney is representing their interests and not those of a service industry firm.

The cost to find someone who will inherit $10 million or $1 million very likely involves the same amount of work so why should a consumer pay a percentage of their inheritance instead of a fixed fee or hourly rate?

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