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Equity Trustees employed a genealogist to help track down a missing beneficiary from a wealthy but fractured family. They found someone who desperately needed the windfall.

It was the early-1960s when Matilda* made a will, leaving her assets to her son and his future children via a testamentary trust.

She could never have envisioned that her son’s first marriage would eventually break down and his remarriage would fracture the family, leading to his children completely losing touch.

“We knew that there were three siblings,” says Equity Trustees Trust Manager Trish Harvey. “But all of them were estranged – two daughters from the first marriage and the son from the second marriage.”

When their father died, Equity Trustees was tasked with managing his estate and tracking down his children.

“We spent a lot of time trying to trace them,” Trish says. “We employed the services of Sue McBeth who does our genealogy work.”

They found the son quickly and then one of the daughters, who told Equity Trustees that her sister had changed her name, although they hadn’t been in touch for decades.

“We'd been looking for her under one name but she’d changed it. Then Sue came back and said I’ve found someone by that name living interstate – should we try her?”

Trish was able to confirm they finally had found the rightful beneficiary. She called her on a Friday afternoon to confirm her inheritance.

“At the end of the phone call, she said, ‘how much is it worth? I'm on a disability pension and survive fortnight to fortnight on my pension’. I said, ‘ok, I hope you're sitting down.’”

Her share of the estate was worth millions of dollars.

“She was so happy – she could now afford to buy a puppy and know that she could feed it and take it to the vet.”

But there was another benefit beyond the financial windfall.

Each sister had given Equity Trustees permission to provide the other with their contact details if the other one also agreed – it was something they both wanted. After decades apart, a door had opened for a reconciliation, thanks to the will left by their grandmother.

“Making that phone call on Friday afternoon and finding out what her financial situation was like, and how the money would make such a difference, was amazing. You don't get to do that very often.”

* Name changed to protect privacy.