Genealogy services

Queensland family ‘shocked’ by unexpected $1.4million inheritance

A Queensland family have been ‘shocked’ to find they will receive a staggering $1.4million inheritance they had no idea existed.

When Marcel* died in hospital in 2018 with dementia, there were no details about his family.

There was no will either and the NSW Trustee & Guardian launched a global search to find the rightful recipients of the Sydney man’s fortune.

Marcel had lost contact with his family long before he developed dementia, according to the NSW Trustee & Guardian.

But when he died, photos, documents and memories of his family were discovered, which he had kept for years.

He provided clues to the government organization’s Genealogy Unit, a team of specialists responsible for investigating the inheritance rights of deceased persons.

In the past 12 months alone, the team has located recipients from around the world in over 200 areas.

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In Marcel’s case, the team obtained his birth certificate and found that his parents were born in France and he had four older siblings – names that matched some of the photos found in his belongings.

They also confirmed that he had no partner or children, so his French connection took them to Europe.

Unlike Australia, most European countries register births, deaths and marriages at local council level.

Paris, where Marcel’s father was born and where he married his mother, is divided into 20 districts.

The couple did not stay in the same place for long, so each district had to be checked, and the documents relating to them were eventually located in four of these districts.

NSW Trustee & Guardian genealogy manager Louise Brown said birth records for each district had to be checked individually.

“After finding the birth and marriage certificates of Marcel’s parents, we needed to identify all their children before and after their marriage,” she explained.

“Half-siblings and full siblings are also entitled to an estate, but only full siblings would have been listed on Marcel’s birth certificate.”

After the French search was completed, the search for Marcel’s family returned to Australia.

While his parents had since died in New South Wales, his siblings had moved to Queensland and Victoria, but Marcel was the last surviving sibling of five children.

However, eight nieces and nephews were found alive and are all entitled to a share of his $1.4 million estate.

“For Marcel’s nieces and nephews, the research carried out by the NSW Trustee & Guardian genealogy unit not only provided them with an important legacy, but also allowed them to conclude about their uncle and another connection to their family through the photos and documents Marcel had kept for so long,” Ms Brown said.

Marcel is remembered by all of his surviving nieces and nephews, according to the government organization.

NSW Trustee & Guardian, director of legal and professional services, Ruth Pollard, said Marcel’s story reminds the community of the importance of having a will.

“Marcel’s story demonstrates the efforts we are making to find who is rightfully entitled to an estate,” she said.

“However, things can be much easier and faster if you have a will.”

*Name changed for confidentiality reasons

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