What Happens To Unclaimed Estates

Tue 27th Nov 2018

What Happens To Unclaimed Estates

If a person dies without leaving a will and he or she doesn’t seem to have next of kin, their estates go to the Treasury's list of Unclaimed Estates.

There are many ways a person’s estate can become unclaimed and fall to Bona Vacantia. For example, if someone has never been married or their spouse pre-deceased them and they didn’t have any children or surviving siblings.

Ultimately, an Unclaimed Estate will go to the Crown if the rightful beneficiaries can’t be found but probate genealogists (sometimes called heir hunters), will often try to find the heirs.

In intestacy cases, heirs are decided through the rules of intestacy, which are;

  • Married or civil partners, then

  • Living children, grandchildren or other direct descendants

  • Followed by living parents, brothers or sisters (or their children), half brothers or sisters (or their children), living grandparents

  • After that, aunts and uncles, then half aunts and uncles.


If none of these relatives can be found, the estate will reside with the Crown. Interestingly, in Cornwall and Lancaster, Bona Vacantia are dealt with by solicitors on behalf of the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster thanks to their ancient bona vacantia rights. Current practice for both is to donate the assets to charity.

Treasury list of Unclaimed Estates

As you can see from the above list, someone who doesn’t have direct descendants and then all other qualified relatives are fairly rare. This is why it is worth keeping an eye on the Treasury's list of Unclaimed Estates, or getting in touch with a professional Heir Hunting company such as Finders International if you believe a distant relative of yours has died and you are entitled to a claim on their estate. If you believe you are an entitled relative contact us to discover your next steps.

While it can seem weird to inherit money from someone you didn’t know or have never had a relationship with, if you were related and you fit the rules of intestacy, then the law applies. That Unclaimed Inheritance legally belongs to you.

Unclaimed Estates can be anything from property to land, vehicles, personal possessions and bank accounts. The treasury’s list of Unclaimed Estates goes as far back as the late 1980s.

Again, intestacy is more common than we realise as many people do not get round to writing their will. Reasons can vary—from not feeling they are ‘old enough’ to write a will, to a belief they do not have enough money or possessions to justify it. In addition, when people no longer have a close kin living, a will loses the same urgency.

If you know of an estate which has recently become unclaimed please refer it to a member of our team who will track the rightful heir. This can save a lot of time and deliver the inheritance to the right relative often years before they would have otherwise heard it even existed.