Lost treasure

Since my mother died eight months ago we have been contacted by two organisations which say they have traced funds which we may be entitled to claim.  One says it has information relating to the death of my great grandfather in 1924, and the other is to do with some property.  They are prepared to recover this money for us if we agree to give them 25 per cent of the proceeds.  Is this legal and above board?  Is there any way of tracing the funds ourselves?  RT

As you may have seen on TV recently, there are several firms which make a living from tracing long-lost relatives named in wills.  You could obviously do some detective work, which will involve tracing your family tree, investigating wills and talking to relatives to discover where the money might be.  Very often such firms will find beneficiaries who haven’t been traced by the executors and who therefore never received their entitlement from an estate.  If you have engaged solicitors to deal with your mother’s affairs you should discuss this with them, but you’re in a win, win situation.

Holiday lottery

From next year, holidays at my place of work are being allocated to individuals in blocks of up to three weeks.  We will be allowed to make exchanges with colleagues, but anyone unable to negotiate a suitable holiday swap will be forced to take up to three consecutive weeks.  Are employers legally allowed to do this?  NR

It depends what it says about holidays in your employment contract, but potentially yes.  Prior to the introduction of the Working Time Regulations in October 1998, employers weren’t obliged to give workers holidays at all, paid or unpaid, so the current statutory entitlement to 5.6 weeks paid leave (including public holidays) can be seen as a step forward.  Unfortunately from your point of view the employer can decide when you take it subject to a notification process.