According to the latest figures from the UK Government, there are currently 9,254 unclaimed estates in the UK. With the average value of an estate worth around £150,000, the amount of this unclaimed inheritance could total billions.
Sadly this situation means that property, money, personal belongings and other assets are being left in limbo instead of being passed on to relatives or friends. To prevent this from happening, it is vital to make a Will.
What happens when you die without a Will?
When someone dies without a Will, and there are no known heirs, their estate will be passed on to the Government (the Crown). Unclaimed assets include property, including buildings, money and personal possessions. Moreover, while in some cases these unclaimed estates are of very little value, they can be worth millions.
Every day the Government publishes an updated list of unclaimed estates. The newest estates are added to the top of the list. An estate remains on the list for a maximum of 30 years, and during this time, relatives can make a claim against it. However, where no heirs are found, the estate is eventually transferred to the Treasury.
Who can claim an estate?
Under the UK’s inheritance laws (Rules of Intestacy), people who are blood relatives of the deceased could be entitled to a share of an estate. Even distant relations could be in for a windfall. However, partners are not recognised if they were not married or in a civil partnership and neither are stepchildren.
If you want to make a claim, you will need to contact the Government’s Bona Vacantia Division (BVD) with a family tree detailing how you are related to the person who has died. You may be asked to prove how you are related to the deceased, so the more details you can include (e.g. birth and marriage certificates), the better.
While this process is complex and can take a long time, with millions going unclaimed the result could be worth it.
Avoid leaving an unclaimed estate
The best way to make sure that your estate does not end up going to the Government is to create a Will. Making a Will is especially important if you have no or few living relatives. Yet despite the importance of having a Will, too many people never get around to this inexpensive and simple task.
You do not have to leave your estate to your family, and can decide to leave your home, money and possessions to whoever you want, including friends and charities. But, only by creating a properly drafted Will can you be sure that your estate will be left as you choose when the time comes.