BeneFinders was formed in 2004 in an effort to help probate attorneys prevent people’s estates from being forfeited to the state if heirs cannot be located. BeneFinders was founded by Dr. Mary Ritch, a 25-year veteran of the legal field as a skip tracer, legal secretary and paralegal. Dr. Ritch has extensive experience in preparing legal documents and reports for filing with the courts. She is keenly aware of the high standards that attorneys and judges are looking for. Dr. Ritch also had a passion for genealogy and was interested in using her skills to benefit her employer at the time, a probate law firm.
Dr. Ritch worked extensively as a professional skip tracer for a collection agency client in one of her paralegal positions. Dr. Ritch brings a unique set of skills rarely found in other genealogy research firms. BeneFinders has combined genealogical research skills and skip-tracing techniques to produce extremely accurate results, especially in tracking down living descendants who may be entitled to an inheritance.
BeneFinders was hired by a law firm to do genealogy research to find the next of kin of a client whose mother had passed away. Because his only sibling had died before the mother, in order for the client to inherit his mother’s full estate, it was necessary to give notice to his estranged father, who had divorced his mother over forty years ago and moved out of state without a trace. Using skip tracing techniques, BeneFinders was able to track down the father, living a completely new life with an entirely new family. He was given notice of the probate case, and he assigned his financial interest in his dead son’s estate to his surviving son, the client. Not only did BeneFinders perform the necessary genealogy research to success solve the case, but it brought a father and son together again after over 40 years had elapsed!
BeneFinders provides genealogical research services for probate cases (also known as "probate genealogy"). We specialize in difficult probate cases involving research to the sixth degree of kinship and beyond. We help attorneys avoid estates becoming subject to escheat (forfeiture to the government).
We also provide historical document transcription for libraries, archives and universities.
We also provide skip tracing and asset searching services for lawyers, collection agencies and bail bonding companies. Our state-of-the-art computer software and access to multiple public and private records databases enable us to combine genealogical research techniques with skip-tracing techniques to locate heirs and skip trace subjects. This dual approach greatly enhances our success rate.
BeneFinders can provide ready-to-file court documents, including declarations, charts and tables of consanguinity suitable for filing in any probate case.
With over 25 years' experience in the legal field and 18 years' experience in genealogy, we know what attorneys and judges expect. You can rest assured that our documents will fulfill the stringent requirements of any court.
Detailed written narrative reports with footnotes/references and copies of supporting documentation. If desired, a report can be prepared in pleading format suitable for filing with the court.
Ready-to-file Court Declarations of Due Diligence
Tables of Consanguinity to 6th degree of kinship
Descendant or Pedigree Charts with or without embellishments
All graphics will be supplied in high-resolution electronic format. If desired, we can prepare printed charts, posters or trial exhibits for an additional fee.
Historical Document Transcription
After transcribing a multitude of legal documents for over 25 years, Dr. Ritch has become quite adept at interpreting handwritten documents. (She began working for lawyers when they hand wrote their documents. Most of them didn’t type and there were no desktop computers.) Dr. Ritch charges a reasonable hourly fee to transcribe handwriting into an easily-read typewritten format. Hard copies as well as electronic versions of the final product will be supplied. Proofreading is included.
Skip Tracing and Asset Searching
We can provide the names and most likely current address or addresses and phone numbers for the subject.
We can also provide the names (and contact information, if available) of possible relatives of the subject, including parents, siblings, spouses and children. This will assist your process servers in serving the subject.
For asset searches, we can also include ownership information for real property the subject may own. Employment, vehicle or bank account information will be included if available.
Every case is different; however, in most cases, our unique process of combining genealogy and skip-tracing techniques provides highly successful results.
After four months of research by two different genealogy companies (one very well known), the judge wanted further research done to attempt to locate the decedent’s maternal first cousins. After a few weeks’ work involving difficult research to the sixth degree of kinship, we were able to locate nineteen additional maternal heirs, including several first cousins twice removed. After having continued the hearing on the petition for probate six times, with this new information we were able to file a fourth supplement to the petition and the court finally allowed us to move forward with the case.
We were asked to locate the sons of the decedent by a previous marriage. Our client, the decedent’s stepson, did not know anything about the sons, just their first names and the fact that they lived in Chicago over
30 years ago. Our client only knew the dates of birth, death and Social Security Number of the deceased, his stepfather, who had died 30 years ago. With this information, we were able to track down the sons of the deceased and give them
notice of the case.
In one case, we were required to give notice to missing heirs, all three of whom were indigent street people. After numerous attempts to locate
them, we prepared a declaration of diligence detailing our investigative efforts, and the court allowed us to dispense with notice to the missing heirs.
In another case, the decedent had two adult sons, one of whom had
predeceased her. We were required to give notice to the surviving son’s
estranged father, who had divorced the decedent forty years ago and moved out of state, having left no trace. We were able to track him down halfway across the country, living a completely new life with an entirely new family. At first he denied
being the father of our client, but incontrovertible evidence ultimately convinced him to change his mind. He assigned his interest in his deceased son’s estate to
his other son, our client.
Near the conclusion of a probate case involving lengthy litigation over a failed settlement, we were required to give notice to all nieces and nephews of the decedent in order to have our petition to terminate a trust and confirm distribution heard by the court. We were able to locate 30 additional persons in less than
two days, gave notice, and our hearing went forward.
Sample Charts. On the sample page of this site are three charts which were used for recent cases. One is from a personal injury case showing the injured man’s family tree and his family history of military or police service; the others are a sample table of consanguinity and sample descendant chart from a complicated probate case.
Probate genealogy fees are quoted in advance and authorized by the estate. We charge an hourly rate for genealogical research, plus expenses. Expenses may include long-distance telephone calls, copies of vital records, database search fees, copies of court documents, deeds and obituaries, postage, etc.
Usually probate genealogy will require 10-20 hours of work, depending on the complexity of the case involved. Difficult cases involving research to the sixth degree of kinship (first cousins twice removed) may involve 20-30 hours of work.
We require a deposit of half of the estimated fee prior to commencing work, and the other half paid upon production of the final genealogy report to the client.
If a case looks like it will exceed the estimate, we will call for authorization to proceed further.
(FYI, probate genealogy fees are considered expenses and are reimbursed out of the proceeds of the probate case in the final settlement of the case.)
Please contact us for a free quote.
Historical Document Transcription and Skip Tracing and Asset Searching
We charge a reasonable hourly rate for historical document transcription and for skip tracing and asset searching, plus expenses. For the latter, expenses may include long-distance telephone calls, copies of deeds, database search fees, copies of court documents, etc. Depending on how much information you can provide to us, most searches can be accomplished in 1-2 hours. One hour minimum charge.
Please contact us for a free quote.
I have worked with Mary Ritch for over 10 years. She is dedicated, diligent, and extremely talented at
what she does. I could not give a higher recommendation to Mary for anyone looking for an heir or a
potential party to a lawsuit.
Kevin L. Von Tungeln*
Thompson Von Tungeln
*Board Certified Specialist - Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law
The State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization
* * *
I highly recommend Mary Ritch. I have worked with Mary on my Probate, Trust, and Conservatorship
cases, and her work has been of the highest quality and fast. She has provided skip tracing, asset
searches, and genealogy services for me on a multitude of occasions.
Shelly L. Ditzhazy, Attorney at Law
Charlton Weeks LLP
* * *
BeneFinders is an outstanding resource to use for skip tracing. They are extremely creative and knowledgeable and produce great results at a reasonable price. They have earned my highest recommendation.
Robert A. Parris, Senior Partner
Parris Law Firm
Here are some sample documents and charts we have prepared for our clients.
Court filing - Declaration - 6th degree of kinship (pdf)Download
Court filing - Declaration - initial and supplemental petition for probate filing (pdf)Download
Court filing - descendant chart (pdf)Download
Court filing - table of consanguinity (pdf)Download
Court filing - trial exhibit (pdf)Download
sample handwritten document before transcription (jpeg)Download
The purpose of this blog is to give you some techniques to overcome the difficulty in bringing a family tree forward and finding your living relatives. The research needed to bring a family tree forward is extremely difficult because of privacy laws. There is a plethora of records to search from 1940 and back, but a dearth of records when searching forward. This blog will help give you some ideas for researching that difficult period from the mid-20th Century to today.