Many people die intestate and leave assets that can be worth a lot of money. But if no relatives can be found then these assets can go to the Crown. A list of estates that remain unclaimed is held and is called the Bona Vacantia list.
Whenever someone dies in England, if they do not leave a will advising who they wish to leave their assets to, and if no-one comes forward to claim that inheritance within 12 years of their death, their entire estate goes to the Treasury – i.e. the UK Government gets it all.
Because the government say that they would rather have the money go to the rightful heirs than themselves, the government have set up a list which can be accessed by anyone online, which shows all of the names of the estates that they have registered where no-one can be found to claim the inheritance. That list is called the Bona Vacantia list which means ‘vacant goods’. Anyone can search through this list to see if any of their deceased relatives are on the list and liable to leave an estate that could be valuable.
Only certain people are allowed to claim against an estate and that is close relatives, further details are given below.
Who Can Claim a Bona Vacantia Estate?
Only certain relatives are able to claim against a Bona Vacantia Estate. The simple explanation is that the person must be a blood relative of the deceased and be one of the following:
- Aunt (by blood not marriage)
- Uncle (by blood not marriage)
- Sister (including half-sister)
- Brother (including half-brother)
- Cousins (only first cousins, i.e. the children of the deceased’s uncle or aunt)
Obviously it can get a bit more complex than this but this is the essential list of beneficiaries. If any of the beneficiaries have themselves died and left children then they will then become entitled to that share.
In order to claim an entitlement the beneficiaries must have evidence that they are who they say they are and that they are related to the deceased in the way they claim. This can be done by getting appropriate copies of birth, marriage and death certificates from the appropriate Registry Office.
Which Names Are Listed on Bona Vacantia?
You can find a full list of names of those who have died intestate (without a will) and for whom no relatives can be found, on the website in either the form of a list or by searching for a particular name or area where someone may have died. Obviously if the deceased has quite a common surname then it is going to be difficult to find relatives – for example, there are over 100 names on the list with the surname Jones so those are going to be more difficult to solve.
However, there are names on the list that are more distinctive and rare like the following:
James Anthony Blenkey
Frank Arthur Booton
Gertrude Maud Chitty
George William Flippance
Alan John Hankinson
Ellen Deborah Parker-Husband
Jean Albert Recordon
May Kathleen Sackett
These are just a small selection of names from the list, there are many more unusual and common surnames of people who were residents of England when they died. To find out the full list of names or to search through them you can check here.
The Importance of Having a Will
If you do not have a will and you die then there are strict criteria set out by law, as to who will get the value of your estate on your death. Obviously then, if those people are not the beneficiaries that you would actually want to receive all your worldly goods then you need to make sure that you have a will specifying your wishes.
A lot of people do not think about making a will until they feel like they are ‘getting old’! It is put off from year to year because we either do not want to think about it or just think it will not happen to us at any time soon.
However, it can be quite simple to make a will (as long as your affairs are not too complex). Although it is best to get a will drawn up by a solicitor, you can also get a kind of ‘readymade’ will where you just need to fill in the details. Once you have specified your wishes in this document and completed it according to the instructions, it is valid in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
With a will costing less than £20 there is really no need to put off completing one, even if this is a more simple version for the interim until you get a solicitor to draw up a more complex will. You can get legal forms to complete a will online – see the link on the left for one particular example.