Unclaimed estates could reveal secret millionaires

Records published by the Treasury reveal that millions of pounds of unclaimed inheritance is now waiting to be claimed from the UK government.

Despite efforts to convince people to make a will, many never get around to this inexpensive and straightforward task. When someone dies without a will, but there are known family members, an intestate death while not ideal, can be resolved. However. where there is no known family, their estate will be passed on to the Crown as ownerless property via ‘Bona Vacantia’, which essentially means ‘ownerless goods’.

Unclaimed assets include property, including buildings, money and personal possessions. While in some cases these unclaimed estates are of very little value, they can be worth millions and people could be entitled to a share of the deceased person’s estate if they are a relative. It’s not just direct dependents that may be in line for a windfall; even distant relations could be in for some money. However, where no heirs are found, the estate is eventually transferred to the HM Treasury. 

While the value of these are not made public, the Government’s Bona Vacantia (BV) department does publish an up-to-date list of all unclaimed estates held by the Treasury solicitor. The list is updated every working day. Newly advertised estates appear at the top of the list, and after one day of publication, new estates drop into the rest of the list in alphabetical order. 

To register a claim for an estate, people should send details of how they are related to the person who has died, including the dates of births, marriages and deaths of all those on their family tree to the Bona Vacantia Division (BVD) of the Government Legal Department. If it looks like someone is entitled to claim the estate, they may then be asked to prove the relationship through birth certificates.

Under the law, an estate should be claimed within 12 years of intestate’s death, but BV can extend this to 30 years or more at their discretion.

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