If a person dies without any known blood relatives and without leaving a Will, it is the Bona Vacantia division of the Treasury Solicitor’s department that is tasked with administering the estate.
‘Bona Vacantia’ means vacant goods and is the name given to ownerless property, which by law passes to the Crown.
The Treasury Solicitor acts for the Crown to administer the estates of people who die intestate (without a Will) and without known kin (entitled blood relatives). They also collect the assets of dissolved companies and other various ownerless goods in England and Wales.
Claims will be accepted by the Bona Vacantia division within, generally, 12 years from the date that the administration of the estate was completed and interest will be paid on the money held. However, claims can be admitted up to 30 years from the date of death.
It is the responsibility of claimants to identify their relationship to the deceased and then to submit documentary evidence, including ID, to prove that relationship.
Following changes implemented last year, new estates are now advertised daily via the unclaimed estates list, and information about the deceased and their family history, where held, is made available to the public. This helps those who may be related to the deceased person to identify their relationship more easily.
The list includes unclaimed estates that have been referred from 1 January 1997 onwards. Of the 1,149 new cases referred to the Division in 2012, 71% have now been claimed by entitled relatives, and 53 Wills have been found.