When Is Intestacy Not Intestacy?
Intestacy is what happens when someone dies without a will. There are a set of rules that are then put in place to determine who should inherit the estate. These rules need to be followed in exactly the right order so that the estate is handled correctly.
However, heir hunters are now suggesting that millions of pounds of inheritances are actually ending up with the wrong people, as too many estates are incorrectly labelled as being intestate when, in fact, a will simply has not yet been found. This speed to create intestate estates is causing many problems as it means the wrong people are, in some cases, inheriting the wrong amounts. Sometimes it turns out that they shouldn’t have inherited anything at all.
There are currently 10,500 estates that are listed as unclaimed. These are listed on the bona vacantia division of the government’s legal department, but estimates suggest that around one fifth of these estates shouldn’t be on the list at all because there are actually wills that relate to them.
The problem has occurred because the government is carrying out fewer will searches, and that means that the bona vacantia list is growing up as many as 50 every week.
Many heir hunters have checked the list, and begun their work to find the long lost family of the deceased – this is the way they have always worked – but are running into difficulties because, after they have found the people who would be entitled to the estate, the will has actually been found (often simply within the personal belongings of the deceased), and everything has to change. Although this is disappointing to those who thought they might be receiving some money, it is worse if the money has already exchanged hands.