‘Intestate’ isn’t a word that easily rolls off the tongue. Not to worry, it basically means money. More precisely, it’s a legal term denoting when a dead person has no will. In the hands of two format coproducers it means cash – to the right person.
Rightful Heir is a new reality format created by Orlando, U.S.-based i.d.e.a.s at Disney-MGM Studios (yes, that is the name) and distributed by Norwalk, U.S.-based CableReady.
The format, which is being developed as a 13×30-minute series and can be made for approximately US$200,000 per episode, seeks to find the person who is the inheritor of intestate estates such as investments and account holdings for which the deceased had no known next-of-kin.
The hosted program’s premise works like this: a forensic genealogist is followed as he determines to whom this largesse should be given by the courts. (The U.S. pilot version will be hosted by Jerry Cushing, a New York genealogist). The show will track real-life cases using a variety of techniques, including profiles of the deceased person, re-enacted scenes of their lives, and observations of the genealogists doing their thing.
Behind the scenes, the producers will employ researchers and private investigators to follow up leads, some of which will be collected from viewer feedback that’s gathered on a tied-in web site.
Each episode will build to a dramatic on-camera scene in which the unsuspecting person receives their inheritance; then wraps with a presentation of an unsolved case that will be pursued in a subsequent episode (depending on the strength of viewer tips).
An additional component may be the spotlighting of solved cases from the past, to build viewer interest for what could be in store. As of press time, no broadcaster had bought the format. MS