Have you ever watched BBC One’s “Heir Hunters” programme?

The programme is based on the work of probate detectives trying to find an eligible relative for a surprise inheritance.

So why did 55,000 estates last year pass to the Bona Vacantia Division of the Government? Simply because the deceased failed to make a Will and did not leave any eligible relatives.

If you do not make a Will then the English intestacy laws apply and, this may mean that your estate does not pass to your nearest and dearest.

Let’s look at an example: –

  • David has been living with his partner Joanne for 10 years, they do not have any children together.
  • Joanne has a son called John (from a previous relationship), to whom David has acted as a stepfather, but he has not formally adopted John.
  • David is an only child and both his parents have already passed away.

David dies and does not leave a Will so, the English intestacy laws apply. Who inherits David’s estate?

  • If David has any Aunts and Uncles they inherit, or if his Aunts and Uncles have passed away then David’s cousins inherit. Joanne and John receive nothing under the laws of intestacy.
  • If David has no Aunts, Uncles or cousins then under English law his estate becomes “ownerless” and therefore passes to the crown, the Bona Vacantia Division.

In the “Heir Hunters” programme, the probate detectives base their searches on the lists of unclaimed estates that are published regularly by the Bona Vacantia Division.

We strongly recommend that you make a Will, and this is particularly important if you are cohabiting or are acting as a stepparent.

Please contact us and we can provide you with tailored advice. Vanessa Ruparel is a Solicitor in the Private Client team who specialises in this area. You can contact her on 0118 958 9711 or Vanessa.ruparel@barrettandco.co.uk


Further Reading:

Long Delays in the Probate Registry

What is Probate?

Massive hike in probate court fees condemned as “stealth” taxes

So Are Probate Court Fees Going Up or Not?

Inheritance Act claims and Contested Probate

Wills & Probate Testimonials

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