Do you have the details of the person who died. You can apply for a copy of the will yourselves iirc. 20% seems a lot and I daresay you won't know how much you might benefit until you sign up It is normal for executors to take expenses but don't think this is usually on a % basis.
I got a letter with similar details a few years ago. I just threw it in the bin. I felt that it was a scam, as I'd never heard of any of my/ex-h's family going to live in Africa.
Do you have any family over there? Surely they can provide details of the deceased and their link to you. If they don't send you any info, then it's definitely a scam. Worrying for those family members who have sent info (even if it is only photocopied).
I would never give out any personal information to someone who has called me out of the blue. My dad has nearly been conned a few times by people saying he's won a holiday etc., but can they have his credit card details to ensure something or other is correct/reserved for him. Bloody idiot goes and gives the number out. Have been forced to contact his bank a few times now because of such swindlers.
Before I retired from paid work (5 years ago)I dealt with estates and wills and such. If I needed to trace family, I would employ someone to do it, I would however pay them out of the estate. I am uncomfortable with your scenario, but don't know if this is the way the world has moved on in my absence.
It may or may not be a scam. the TV programme showed how firms competed to trace relatives. They were freelance (as far as I could tell) as in not employed by solicitors to do this and took a cut.
(Coming so soon after the TV programme showing this would make me sceptical though,so you are right to be very cautious)
I was contacted a few years ago by someone trying to trace relatives of someone with (v. unusual) surname. I presume he'd started with me because I am google-able. I just told him I'd never heard of anyone with the name of the person who died, and that was that.
Not sure if your chappie is scamming you or not TheBlonde (it doesn't 'feel' right, but that could be just because I get so much spam from people wanting me to give them my bank details that I've become cynical), but this kind of thing (tracing of long-lost relatives) does go on.
Not necessarily a scam, this is a legitimate source of work for many firms. And to be fair, some people get money that they would never have known about. However, if you can prove yourself that you are entitled to a share of an estate, you can do so without anyone else taking a cut.
Have a look at this Treasury site bonavacantia It tells you how to submit a claim. You need to show evidence of your relationship with the deceased.
You said some relatives have already signed up with this firm, so presumably you know the name of the relative. That's the hard bit - if someone rings out of the blue and obviously doesn't tell you the name of the distant relative, you need to find out. On the bonavacantia site you can search for names of people dying without a will. You can search by first letter of the surname or search by family name so you could try common names in your extended family. That probably wouldn't be much help if the relative had another name by marriage that you didn't know. You can also see the full list of names, in case you recognise one. The list shows the name, place of death and the amount of their estate. Then you just click on the name to submit your claim.
Actually, I've just had a look on the site, and there are only 63 names currently listed, so it's worth having a look at.
Under the FAQ, there is a bit saying I have cousins, do I have to share the money. And the answer is that once an entitled person is identified, the estate still has to be shared out under intestacy rules, although the Treasury Solicitor would no longer be involved at that stage. So that seems to imply that you would be entitled to a share now that your other relatives have been identified, even if you don't sign up with this heir-finding firm. I would still make a claim myself though!
The BBC had a really interesting daytime show for a while called Heirhunters, presented by Nadia Sawalha, that detailed these cases. I don't think it is necessarily a scam, but if you know who your relative is, I think you can probably make the claim yourself.