What Is Bona Vacantia?

You may have heard the term ‘bona vacantia’ in relation to probate. But what exactly does it mean? In the simplest terms, bona vacantia is a part of the Treasury Solicitor’s department, and it manages unclaimed estates. That could be the estates of individuals, or of companies that are liquidated or wound up. In the eyes of the Treasury department, both of these are treated in the same way, although there are often more assets and account to look at when it comes to a business.

Company directors may not be aware that if they apply for their company to be wound up or liquidated and removed from Companies House, then anything left over can indeed be claimed by the bona vacantia department. Sometimes directors forget about old accounts, for example, and if these are left open when the company has been dissolved then anything left within them can then be claimed by the bona vacantia department. These company assets can include bank accounts, land (in England and Wales), trademarks and copyrights, patents, mortgage benefits, intellectual property, and the benefits of any agreements that have been set up, amongst other things.

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And if you realise that these assets have been forgotten about, there is no guarantee that you will get any of it back again. The Treasury Solicitor isn’t set up to correct mistakes or work around any company director’s negligence.

So what happens to the estates once they have been claimed by the bona vacantia department? One option is that they can be bought back by anyone with a claim to them. This is fairly unusual, however – there is a period of research and due diligence that has to take place so that, as far as anyone knows, the estate is not to be left to anyone. The usual option for what happens once the estate is claimed by the bona vacantia department is that it is added to the accounts of the Treasury department. 

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