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What is an unclaimed Estate, and how can I prevent mine from being one?

July 31, 2023 By Kiera Lambie Estate Planning

There are Latin phrases to describe what happens to your assets when you pass away with no-one to benefit from your Estate:

  • Bona Vacantia in England and Wales
  • Ultimus Haeres in Scotland

Whilst the exact translations slightly differ, these are both government departments that deal with Estates where there are no Executors or Beneficiaries to claim the assets. In these cases the funds pass to the Crown as the ‘last heir’ (Ultimus Haeres) of the ‘vacant goods’ (Bona Vacantia).

At the date of writing, there are 6339 unclaimed Estates in England and Wales with the oldest dating back to 1974. These are cases where either the Estate has not been dealt with at all, or the Estate has been dealt with but no ‘heirs’ have come forward to claim the assets.

In Scotland, the National Ultimus Haeres Unit (NUHU) is currently investigating 217 unclaimed Estates. Since 2008, the NUHU has paid out more than £6 million to beneficiaries of unclaimed Estates who have either contacted NUHU directly or been traced via a genealogist.

For the most part, unclaimed Estates come from individual’s who either had no family, were estranged from their family and/or didn’t write a Will.

So who is entitled to an unclaimed Estate?

In short, the closest living relative of the deceased (or amongst that generation equally if there is more than one or their direct descendants if a member of that generation is deceased)

In Scotland the ranking of ‘closest’ is:

  • – Spouse
  • – Children
  • – Parents and siblings (equally if both)
  • – Parents
  • – Siblings
  • – Aunts/Uncles
  • – Grandparents
  • – Great Aunts/Great Uncles
  • – Other Ancestors
  • – The Crown

In England & Wales the ranking of ‘closest’ is:

  • – Spouse
  • – Children
  • – Parents
  • – Full blood siblings
  • – Half blood siblings
  • – Grandparents
  • – Full blood Aunts/Uncles
  • – Half blood Aunts/Uncles
  • – The Crown

So for example if you had 3 siblings but one of them pre-deceased, their children i.e your nieces and nephews could claim the portion their parent would have been entitled to had they survived.

How can I ensure I don’t have an unclaimed Estate?

The simplest way to ensure your Estate doesn’t fall to the Crown is to designate where you would like your assets to go by writing a Will.

Contact Our Estate Planning Team

Make an appointment with Jones Whyte and our experienced Estate Planning Team will help you make a Will that reflects your wishes and ensures those who you want to inherit from your Estate do.

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