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When Sparx Green Energy & Technology, a renewable energy firm, found an ideal plot of land on which to build a solar panel factory, there was a catch. The three people on public record as the owners of the land had died years earlier.

What followed was a protracted search for the dead owners’ descendents to find the legal heirs of the land, about the size of a football field. The company found that the number of people who could lay claim to the plot had mushroomed to more than a hundred.

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