Unclaimed estates

There is nothing more intriguing that the notion we may be due untold riches from undisclosed sources. For example, do you have any premium bonds, and did you notify the registrar the last time you moved to a new house?

And did you know that the estates of deceased persons whose beneficiaries or family cannot be traced are held by the government for 30 years?

It is possible to download the unclaimed estates list in a digital format that you can search to see if remote relatives have unclaimed estates that you might be eligible to claim.

Not a task for the faint hearted.

The department that manages the list is known as the Bona Vacantia division. In a recent update posted on the Gov.uk website they said:

The Division publishes a list of unclaimed estates which have been recently referred, but not yet administered, and historic cases which have been administered but not yet been claimed within the time limits for doing so.

The list is published in a Comma Separated Values (CSV) file format. This acts like a spreadsheet and although it can be opened in any text editor it is best viewed in a spreadsheet application, such as Microsoft Excel, Google Docs or OpenOffice Calc.

If you are looking for a particular estate you can search by using Ctrl-F in your browser, text editor or spreadsheet application.

Any estates where the Bona Vacantia division (BVD) no longer has an interest, for example, when a claim to an estate has been admitted, will be removed daily. Estates where the 30 year time limit from the date of death has expired are also removed.

The following notes explain more about the claims process:

If someone dies without leaving a valid or effective will (intestate) the following are entitled to the estate in the order shown below:

  1. husband, wife or civil partner
  2. children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and so on
  3. mother or father
  4. brothers or sisters who share both the same mother and father, or their children (nieces and nephews)
  5. half brothers or sisters or their children (nieces and nephews of the half blood or their children). ‘Half ’ means they share only one parent with the deceased
  6. grandparents
  7. uncles and aunts or their children (first cousins or their descendants)
  8. half uncles and aunts or their children (first cousins of the half blood or their children). ‘Half’ means they only share one grandparent with the deceased, not both

If you are, for example, a first cousin of the deceased, you would only be entitled to share in the estate if there are no relatives above you in the order of entitlement, for example, a niece or nephew.

If your relationship to the deceased is traced through someone who survived the deceased but has since died, you will need to confirm who is entitled to deal with that person’s estate. The person entitled to deal with someone’s estate is known as their ‘legal personal representative’. They are the person entitled to make the claim to the deceased’s estate.

For example, children are only entitled to share in an estate if their parent died before the deceased, in which case they take their parent’s share of the deceased’s estate. If their parent survived the deceased but has subsequently died, then whoever is dealing with their estate should claim.

The unclaimed estates list can be downloaded at https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/unclaimed-estates-list

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