Is there an unclaimed fortune hanging in your family tree

Posted by Andrew Penny in Personal Finance on 21 June 2012 - Andrew is responsible for Quality Assurance at checkmyfile

Every year in the UK, hundreds of people die without leaving a will. If you die without leaving a will then you have said to have died intestate.

Should there be no obvious surviving relative or spouse that can make a claim on the estate, the Treasury Solicitor will step in and deal with solvent estates of people who die without a will.

In this case who will inherit the estate? That is where ‘probate genealogists’ or ‘heir hunters’ come in. A bit like ambulance chasers, but after the main event.

These specialist family tree trackers are given a list of unclaimed estates from the Treasury and then they decide which ones are worth pursuing. Obviously they take a cut of any potential inheritance they might be passing on to a successful claimant, but since the claimant probably didn’t know the windfall was due, what they never had they will never miss.

As many estates often include a property, jewellery and cash, the value of the estate can be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds so it worth heir hunters spending time and resources searching for and tracking down a claimant.

During the time that heir hunters are searching for any valid claim, the estate is held by the Treasury and is held for 30 years. After that time, if there are no valid claims to the estate, the estate goes to the treasury coffers.

Rather than waiting to see if heir hunters will one day knock on your door, you can do a search in order to see if there is any unclaimed estates in your family tree.

Bona Vacantia provides access to the list of unclaimed estates via an online search facility. You can search for a specific person, a family name, or just see the whole list of unclaimed estates.

If your search returns a positive result and you know you are related to the person detailed, you may be entitled to a share of the deceased's estate. You can even submit a claim via the Bona Vacantia site.

No value is given for the estates listed on the site, value is only known once a valid claim is lodged.

If you do find that you are a surviving relative of the deceased it may open a whole new area of investigation for the heir hunters and you might not be the only claimant. However sharing a lost windfall is better then no windfall at all!

Andrew Penny leads our Software Quality Assurance. He has a degree in Computer Science from the University of Lancaster

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