There is a vast fortune of wealth sitting in the coffers of the treasury waiting to be claimed. An estimated £15bn in total of inheritance exists for which no beneficiary has been found.
Given the size of the fortune involved there is no surprise in the fact that a huge industry has grown up around the issue of unclaimed estates with many dedicated legal firms focussing solely on the function of tracing the lineage for some of this wealth. It is a topic which has given rise to a popular daytime television programme and been the subject of innumerable tabloid column inches.
Heir-hunters invest in very expensive and sophisticated search techniques, in the hope of finding the rightful heirs to the estate. Each time details of a new unclaimed estate are published, there’s a frenzy of activity and a race begins to trace the deceased’s relatives, before anyone once else. This is because they are paid a percentage of the estate value for their trouble. If they don’t get their first, they don’t get paid.
With all of this interest and publicity; you might be forgiven for thinking that there is little point developing your own family tree, with the vague hope of finding a connection to a long lost relative. This is not necessarily the case, last year alone the treasury absorbed £43 million from unclaimed inheritances.
Search the list
If you think there’s a chance you could be heir to an estate and have basic information available such as the deceased’s name and place of death – you can perform your own search of the Bona Vacantia (Ownerless Goods List):
Find your family tree
In many cases, long lost heirs come from large, displaced families. When contacted, many are not even aware of the existence of their benefactor. While this may seem unusual and perhaps a little far-fetched, it is more common than you might think.
For example, imagine your grandfather had a brother who he lost contact with. He never mentioned his brother because they’d not been a part of each-others’ lives for so long. Let’s say that your ‘great uncle’ married and moved to the other side of the country after the war. They weren’t blessed with any children of their own and both passed away, without heirs. Your grandfather would be the closest living relative of the deceased and according to the laws of intestacy, would be the rightful heir of the estate. This right then passes to his children and their children.
Genealogical research, often presents people with whole new branches of their family tree. These discoveries can result in reconnections with people and long lost property too.