Probate research firms are flouting social distancing rules and visiting elderly people’s houses unannounced, it has been claimed. The Association of Probate Researchers (APR) said it was ‘profoundly shocked’ at reports of at least one outfit visiting potential beneficiaries unannounced and in person.

APR chairman Neil Fraser, who also is a partner at genealogy and probate research firm Fraser and Fraser, said: ‘I was profoundly shocked to be contacted by an heir who complained they had received an unexpected visit… just a few days ago, on 16 April.

‘It’s extremely concerning to be told that a firm is still sending out its staff to visit elderly and vulnerable heirs in person like this. Potential heirs tend to come from the oldest surviving generation in a family and, as such, are likely to be especially vulnerable to coronavirus. There is absolutely no need for any probate research firm to be making physical contact with potential heirs at the moment, when phone and mail provide perfectly adequate methods of getting in touch.’

Solicitors’ firms are striving to carry out probate work in line with social distancing rules, with one practice opening a kerbside will signing service.

However, the Gazette has also been told that the government risks missing the boat on emergency probate legislation to enable people to make wills in lockdown. A major overhaul of probate legislation has been expected since March but government ministers have still not decided which option to put before parliament – or whether to change the law at all.


*The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.