unclaimed estates

Family Trees and Unclaimed Estates

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.  

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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):
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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.

More about Unclaimed Estates

On average the Treasury department absorbs a massive £10 million annually from unclaimed estates in the UK.  This is despite the fact that there is plenty of support available for heir hunters to track down their inheritance.
There are many reasons that these fortunes remain unclaimed. In some cases there are simply no living relatives and the deceased is the end of the line within their family tree. This is not that common and for most of those who pass away there are usually some living relatives, however distant.
In order to have a rightful claim to an inheritance the family line can be connected via a grandparent of the deceased. Disparity of family spread is often a problem in connecting the estate to a relative. In some cases relatives of the deceased have relocated abroad and have had little or no communication with the deceased over a long period of time.
Whatever the reasons for not making a claim, with such a large amount of money at stake, there are a number of specialist firms that make a living out of reuniting people with unclaimed inheritance before the treasury can lay its hands on the money.
From the point of death the clock is ticking on an estate. Relatives have 12 years to come forward and claim the inheritance. If they do so within that period they can also collect any interest that the estate has accrued. Ultimately the claimant must come forward before 30 years has elapsed, but a payment during this period is at the discretion of the Treasury Solicitor. No interest can be collected on the estate for the final 18 years.
When someone dies intestate The Treasury Solicitor advertises in national and local newspapers. They give out the details of the person's name, the value of their estate, and the location and time of death. At this point the genealogists, employed by the big heir hunting law firms, will begin to piece together the family tree of the deceased.
These firms do not come cheap and will charge anywhere between 25% and 40% of an estate for their services. They will ensure that a contract is signed before any of the details of the deceased is given to the relative.
If you would like to find out more about our low-cost genealogical research service contact us free on 0800 612 6105

Making a search for unclaimed estates

lgo tsol lrg Making a search for unclaimed estatesIt is possible that you have relatives that you’ve lost touch with over the years. You may even have family branches that you don’t even know exist. Around two thirds of Brits die without making a will and there are currently 20,000 unclaimed estates that have been passed over for administration by the Treasury Solicitor.
It’s by no means improbable, and perfectly natural to wonder whether you could be entitled to a lost inheritance, especially if you have a large family. After all, in 2010 £21m was paid out by the Treasury to long-lost heirs.
If you want to find out whether you’re entitled to claim a slice of the millions held by the Treasury in unclaimed estates, you need to do a search of the Bona Vacantia, or vacant goods list. To perform a search, the information you’ll need is;
Date of Death
Place of Death  
Date of Entry to Bona Vacantia
If you don’t have all this information, you can just search surname and place of death but your family name may not be the same as the deceased’s due to marriage over generations. Common names such as Smith or Jones can be difficult to trace. 
You may not even know of a particular relative, or have no knowledge of an entire branch of your family tree. Plus, the list details estates in England and Wales only, and you may have an entitlement to an estate overseas. This is fairly common as many families lose touch when members move abroad or emigrate. Therefore, if you don’t have much information, the best way to start is actually by researching your family tree.
During your genealogical research, you’ll be able to map out blood lines and see if you can make any connections. You’ll also obtain birth and death certificates to prove your lineage. These, along with other public records may contain vital clues as to the whereabouts of relatives. 
Genealogy is satisfying and rewarding. Besides, if you’re lucky enough to find you could be a beneficiary of an unclaimed estate, you’ll need to submit a professional family tree as proof of your relationship to the deceased.
If you don’t want to do it yourself, you can get a genealogist to carry out the work on your behalf. Find about more about our professional service to find your family tree.

The Facts about Unclaimed Estates

victoria family tree 19011 The Facts about Unclaimed EstatesHave 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.

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