Heir hunt in Hemel! Search for family of ‘private’ man who left behind £750,000 finds 39 relatives

Pictons partner and head of the wills trust and probate team John King
Pictons partner and head of the wills trust and probate team John King

An insular Hemel Hempstead man who died with an estate worth £750,000 has had his legacy split among 39 relatives who never even knew he existed.

An Heir Hunters-style search for those connected to John Floyd, who died aged 75, was conducted by Hemel Hempstead-based law firm Pictons – and the project took them to all corners of the globe.

Mr Floyd, who had lived all his life near Marlowes in the town, had acquired considerable assets but passed away without having made a will.

Pictons solictors discovered he had never married or had children and was an only child. Without the vital document, his entire fortune would be passed to the state – unless relatives could be found.

This sparked the firm’s partner and head of the wills trust and probate team John King on a search through Mr Floyd’s complex family tree, which took more than three years.

Mr King, 64, said: “We learned virtually nothing about Mr Floyd’s background and even though we’ve worked on the case for over three years, he clearly led a very private life.

“Even tracing all his assets proved difficult, including 16 separate bank accounts, various shareholdings and the other investments he had made.

“The total sum that was ultimately available after any outstanding debts and inheritance tax was paid was just under £500,000, but tracing the assets was only a small part of the story.”

The solicitor was forced to undertake extensive and complicated detective work to discover all of the little-known character’s relatives – however obscure – who would be entitled to a share of his wealth.

Ultimately, 39 people who had a claim to Mr Floyd’s estate were found – including his distant cousins and extended family from the UK, Europe, the US and even Australia.

Most of them had never even heard of their deceased benefactor.

Mr King, who lives in Tring but is based at Pictons’ Hemel Hempstead office, said: “It turned out that Mr Floyd was an only child, both his parents had died as had all of his eight uncles and aunts – three on his father’s side and five on his mother’s.

“The search for their children, or in some cases their children’s children, took us around the world.

“There were 31 beneficiaries on his mother’s side and just seven on his father’s. It turned out that Mr Floyd had never met any of his uncles, aunts or cousins on his mother’s side at all.”

The biggest pay-out from Mr Floyd’s fortune was £67,000, while other members of his kin received £900. The amounts inherited varied depending on intestacy rules – based on how closely they were related to the successful Hemel Hempstead man.

Mr King, whose three year search has prompted him to remind people of the importance of making a will, said: “Not only was this one of the most complicated cases we have had to deal with in terms of tracing beneficiaries, it was also one of the saddest.

“John Floyd’s substantial wealth was inherited almost entirely by people who he did not know and who did not know him.”

Pictons also has an office in Tring, as well as nearby Luton and Milton Keynes.

For more about the firm, including advice on creating a will, visit www.pictons.com.