Bona Vacantia – the estates of folk who die with no Will and no known blood relatives.
With the incredibly low level of people who have a reasonably recently reviewed Will with can be found at the time of their death, it is not surprising that many estates end up going to the Crown via the Bona Vacantia Department of the Treasury experts.
They publish lists of the estate they have in their care, and just maybe you might be entitled to something. Many people are approached by Heir Hunters on the basis that they might be beneficiaries of Bona Vacantia estates.
Be aware that this is a brief summary of our understanding of the situation – we are not Heir Hunters, nor can we provide further advice in this area. Explore the links given for further information, or contact the Bona Vacantia Department direct. We have no connection with them.
So how do you find out if you may be entitled?
This is the order of entitlement if there is no valid Will:
- husband, wife or civil partner
- children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and so on
- mother or father
- brothers or sisters who share both the same mother and father, or their children (nieces and nephews)
- half brothers or sisters or their children (nieces and nephews of the half blood or their children). ‘Half ’ means they share only one parent with the deceased
- uncles and aunts or their children (first cousins or their descendants)
- half uncles and aunts or their children (first cousins of the half blood or their children)
For example, a first cousin of the deceased, would only be entitled to share in the estate if there are no relatives who are higher in the order of entitlement.
If your relationship to the deceased is traced through someone who survived the deceased but has since died, you will need to confirm what happened to that person’s estate, as their share would have been passed on either under their Last Will or under the Rules of Intestacy.
Children are only entitled to share in an estate if their qualifying parent died before the deceased, in which case they take their parent’s share of the deceased’s estate. If their parent survived the deceased but has subsequently died, then whoever is dealing with their estate should claim (see below).
Make a claim to Bona Vacantia Department
The Treasury experts publishes a list of all Bona Vacantia estates which have yet to be claimed since 1997 which is updated daily, with new estates added and estates which have been claimed taken off.
If you believe you are entitled to share in an estate which has been dealt with by BVD, please send them (NOT us!) a family tree showing how you are related to the person who has died, and include the dates of birth, marriage and death of all those on the tree. If it appears that you may be entitled to share in the estate, the Bona Vacantia Department require you to supply evidence that clearly demonstrates your entitlement.
Evidence which may:
- full birth certificates (showing the parents’ names) and marriage certificates of each person (including yours and the deceased’s) between you and the deceased. If BVD need death certificates of any of those in the family chain, these will be requested separately
- identification documents which provide proof of your name and of your name linked to your address (see a list of acceptable ID documents at the end of this guide)
- court sealed copies of Grants of Probate or Letters of Administration if you are claiming as a personal representative
- information that you or any other person may have regarding the deceased person’s life history, including their occupation, last known address and when you were last in contact with them
- an explanation, supported by evidence, of any discrepancies in the documents supplied with your claim or about any missing documents
BVD may also ask you for other evidence if needed.
Claims from personal representatives
If an entitled relative survived the deceased but has since died, that relative’s personal representative must make a claim to the deceased person’s estate. A personal representative is either the executor of their Will or the person entitled to share in their estate if they did not leave a Will.
If your relationship to the deceased is traced through someone who survived the deceased but has since died, you will need to confirm what happened to that person’s estate.
Obtaining documents for your claim
Certificates issued in the United Kingdom can be obtained from the local registrar where the event took place or as follows:
England and Wales
General Register Office
PO Box 2
Further information can be found on the General Register Office website.
Further details can be found on the Scottish General Register Office website
General Register Office
Republic of Ireland
Further details can be found on the Republic of Ireland General Register Officewebsite.
Register General for Northern Ireland
49-55 Chichester Street
Further details can be found on the Register General for Northern Ireland website.
If you are supplying certificates and identity documents in languages other than English you will need to supply a certified English translation of each document.
You must provide sufficient documentary evidence to satisfy BVD that, on balance, you are related to the deceased and entitled to share in their estate before the Crown.
If you are in any doubt about how to prove your claim, you should seek your own advice, from a experts, local law centre or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. The Treasury experts cannot advise you.
Admission of claims
BVD will deal with, and admit, the first fully documented claim they receive which is supported by sufficient evidence.
Once a claim is accepted BVD do not need claims from other relatives, as their claim is protected by law and should be made direct to the successful claimant or their representative, as it is their legal duty to deal with the estate appropriately.
Personal information and prevention of crime
BVD will only release information about the value of the estate, or the assets and liabilities, to a successful claimant.
Claims will be accepted by BVD within, generally, 12 years from the date that the administration of the estate was completed and interest will be paid on the money held.
However, BVD will admit claims up to 30 years from the date of death, subject to no interest being paid on the money held, if the claim is received after the 12 year period above has run out.
Genealogists are private organisations who trace potentially entitled relatives for commercial gain. They do not work for the Treasury experts, but often make enquiries for blood relatives after BVD advertises an estate. You do not have to use a genealogist’s services if you do not wish to do so, and such a decision does not affect any entitlement you may have to share in an estate.
If you are contacted by a genealogist, it is up to you whether you use their services and BVD cannot advise you in this respect.
You must submit one form of identification as proof of your name and one as proof of your name linked to your address.
You cannot use one form of identification for both name and address. For example, if you provide your driving licence as proof of your name you must provide another form of identification for your address, such as a utility bill.
Copies of documents
BVD will only accept good quality copies of certificates and identification documents if they have been certified by one of the following as a true copy of the original that they have seen:
- UK experts
- Justice of the Peace
- high street bank manager
- a qualified lawyer (or notary public if you live outside the United Kingdom)
- the Post Office’s ID checking service (in which case, please also include the completed ID Checking Service form which has been stamped by the Post Office)
The person certifying must also provide the name and address of the firm or bank in which they are employed (unless documents have been certified under the Post Office ID Checking Service).