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Could you be entitled to an unclaimed estate?

View profile for Leah Woodnott
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Could you be entitled to an unclaimed estate?

If you pass away without leaving a valid will and no known family to inherit your estate, then your estate by law passes to the Crown as ownerless property.

Ownerless property is often referred to as “Bona Vacantia”. If you have ever watched BBC’s “Heir Hunters” then you’ll be familiar with the scenario. 

The government keep an up-to-date list of all unclaimed estates, so it is worthwhile checking the below link to see whether you recognise anyone on the list:-

Unclaimed estates list - GOV.UK 

If you do recognise a relative’s name on the list then in order to make a claim, you must fall within one of the below categories:-

  • husband, wife or civil partner of the deceased
  • children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and so on (includes adopted children of the deceased or adoptive family if the deceased was adopted) of the deceased
  • mother or father of the deceased
  • brothers or sisters who share both the same mother and father, or their children (nieces and nephews) of the deceased
  • half brothers or sisters or their children (nieces and nephews of the half blood or their children) of the deceased
  • grandparents of the deceased
  • uncles and aunts or their children (first cousins or their descendants) of the deceased
  • half uncles and aunts or their children (first cousins of the half blood or their children) of the deceased

How to make a claim against an unclaimed estate

In order to make a claim against an unclaimed estate then you will need to make an application to the Bona Vacantia Division within 12 years from the date the estate administration is finalised. You will also need to provide evidence that you are related for example, a family tree and your ID documents. 

If you would like any assistance in making an application to the Bona Vacantia then please contact one of our probate specialists.

To prevent your estate being dealt with under the Bona Vacantia ruling if you have no immediate family as listed above, then there are preventive measures that you can take to ensure that your property does not go to the Crown.

You can simply execute a valid will leaving your estate to those individuals that you wish to inherit your estate - this could be your friends, colleagues or to a charity. It is also important to store your will in a safe place so that when you pass away the original can easily be located. If you would like to store your will at Birkett Long then we would be happy to store your will free of charge.

If you would like to prepare an up-to-date will then I would be happy to assist you. I am based in our Colchester office and can be contacted on 01206 217609 or leah.woodnott@birkettlong.co.uk.

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