Have you ever wondered what the chances are of a wealthy long lost relative leaving you a small fortune? Here’s a collection of facts about unclaimed estates, inheritance and heir hunters.
In Britain around 2 thirds of people die without making a will.
There are around 20,000 unclaimed estates in the UK and 2,000 more join the register each year.
Unclaimed estate details are public records; you can access the information by searching the Bona Vacantia (the ownerless goods list).
You can search online for all unclaimed estates since 1 Jan 1997, when records were computerised.
The latest unclaimed estates are published every Wednesday at midnight.
£21m was paid out by the Treasury in 2010 to long-lost heirs.
If the estate is not claimed within 12 years, it goes to the Treasury and becomes the property of the Crown.
It is still possible to claim some part of the estate for up to 30 years after the death.
In 2011 the Treasury Solicitor took in £18m from those who had not made a will.
Since December 2007 the values of estates are no longer published to discourage fraud against any assets.
Around 500,000 Brits benefit from an inheritance through heir hunting firms every year. Professional heir hunters find the rightful beneficiaries of the estates held by the treasury and charge a finder’s fee for their efforts.
The average estate value is £67,500.
The average finder’s fee charged is 20% of the inheritance.
Many people throw away letters, and ignore phone calls saying they are entitled to a share of an unclaimed estate because they think they are scams.
The BBC program Heir Hunters was first aired on 4 June 2007 and is now in its 6th series. It attracts around 1.7million viewers.
The probate genealogists featured on the show were heavily criticised in a case involving Jessica Ellacott. The 17 year old student expected to receive a share of £175,000 inheritance from a cousin twice removed but the firm wanted to charge a third of her pay-out, plus VAT. – Daily Mail, This is Money, BBC 'bounty hunters' row.
Which.co.uk slates one firm who are charging as much as 40% plus VAT.
Market research company Opinium found that Brits could be handing over as much as £10 million a year to heir locater firms.