Heir Hunter Ordered To Pay £250,000 Costs
Andrew Fraser, of firm Fraser and Fraser, one of the largest genealogists in the world, faces legal costs of around £250,000 after he failed to acknowledge the Will of a deceased pensioner.
Brent Council solicited the advice of Andrew Fraser, partner in Fraser and Fraser, to investigate the £600,000 estate of 1930s model, Tessa Amstell.
In actual fact, Tessa Amstell had written a Will in 2011 following the passing of her husband in 2009 . She left her property to her nephew, Martin Amstell and over £122,000 worth of shares to a number of charities. However, Fraser claimed that the Will was made without impartiality by Amtell’s nephew. Although the Will was simple, it lacked an accoupling medical certificate that proved Ms Amtell’s capacity.
She also named her niece as executor. However, having lost the will, the application of probate was never made. The Amstell family also claim that the executor was ill and unable to cope with the responsibility. The additional executor mentioned in the will was also unwilling to act in this case. Following these omissions from the family, Fraser researched other potential heirs.
Fraser found around thirty potential heirs that could benefit from the fortune if Amstell’s 2011 Will could not be found.
In the absence of a Will, Fraser then applied for power of attorney, grant of probate and began the administration process of the estate.
Having taken control of the estate, Fraser worked tirelessly to win a commission thought to be around £75,000. This included changing the locks on the family home and reading through Tessa Amstell’s medical records in a bid to prove that she possessed mental capacity to make a valid medical certificate is usually attached.
To this day, the 2011 Will has not been found and it is unclear whether it was unintentionally destroyed when the house contents were removed before the sale of the property. However, finding a valid Will would’ve cut Fraser and the company out of a commission.
Fraser’s company entered into an agreement with alternative blood relative, Keith Simpson, which would entitle the company to a substantial commission.
During this time, he also placed unclaimed dividends worth around £60,000, in Ms Amstell’s name, into a client account. Seven years after Ms Amstell’s death, Fraser placed the property up for auction and only stopped the sale once Martin Amstell had appealed against Fraser’s actions and POA position.
When the estate was finally given to Amstell, Fraser asked to accrue the £134,000 worth of financial losses he had made through administering the estate. This was denied by the courts.
Judge Nigel Gerald said: Fraser was “primarily focused on his financial gain and was materially misleading.”
In another statement the judge claimed Fraser treated the hunt “as a commercial venture’ and acted in a ‘belligerent and provocative manner.”
The courts viewed the Heir hunter’s actions as a “deliberate intention to run this litigation as disproportionately, obstructively and expensively as possible.”
The judge further highlighted that “Once appointed, Mr Fraser set about administering the estate with gusto” and “Fraser never should have been granted’ letters of administration over the estate.”
Neil Fraser, Co-owner of Fraser and Fraser, said: “This was a costs hearing and Mr Fraser relied on the CPR 57.7.5.B. However, the Judge ruled that Vallee v Birchwood  EWHC 1449 and the cost ruling in this case were of a higher degree being tested in the Court of Appeal, and as Andrew Fraser had a commercial interest in the matter then the costs went to him.
“If anything, I think it would be fair to argue that had Mr Fraser not questioned a Will signed by a 97 year old without any professionals present, and without a medical certificate to say the tester was of sound mind, and for the Will to be taken from the deceased less than 20 mins after she signed it and then lost he could have been ruled to not represent the profession well.”