24 October 2016
40 estates a week ‘going unclaimed’
Millions of pounds in inheritance is being left behind by people who die without a will and with no known family.
Around 40 estates a week are unclaimed because wills drawn up go missing or cannot be found after someone passes away.
Although the Government's legal department advertises its unclaimed estates register to find entitled relatives, there are currently 11,655 deceased people with unclaimed assets on the official list.
Legal experts estimate one in five people listed on the register does have a will but it cannot be located.
The figures also include assets belonging to deceased people who have left a will which is deemed invalid because of mistakes or a lack of clarity.
A person who does not leave a valid will and has no obvious next of kin under intestacy rules will have their assets transferred to the state. Only married or civil partners, children and adopted children and their descendants can inherit under the rules of intestacy.
It all means that the wishes of thousands of people who die each year go unfulfilled, and money they have worked for, houses they own and their personal possessions do not get passed on to their loved ones after their death.
Property that is unclaimed is listed by the official 'bona vacantia' division of the Government's legal section and by law passes to the Crown.
Bona vacantia translates as 'vacant goods' and refers to ownerless assets, including shares, savings and investments such as houses and cars.