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Bona Vacantia

Bona vacantia literally translates as ‘ownerless goods’ from the Latin. Estates that are left intestate but with no one to become a beneficiary are known as bona vancatia estates, and are officially recognised within the UK law.

In order to deal with these ownerless estates, there is a specially created division of the Treasury Solicitor’s Department (the Bona Vacantia Division). Since there must be a person or body named for each estate left when their owner dies, the Treasury Solicitor is named by Royal Warrant, and the assets, property, and money of the bona vacantia estate pass to the Crown (specifically Her Majesty’s Treasury).

This holds true for most of the UK, although in the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster it is slightly different. Within the boundaries of these areas, it is solicitors Farrer & Co who settle any bona vancatia estates, and, if no rightful heirs can be found, the money passes to the Duchies. Rather than becoming part of the Duchies’ treasury, however, charities are the beneficiaries (specifically the Duchy of Lancaster Benevolent Fund, The Duchy of Lancaster Jubilee Trust, and the Duke of Cornwall’s Benevolent Fund).

However, there are procedures that must be followed before the estate can be settled. Any heirs must be found and contacted, and it can be a long, time consuming search.

If you believe that you might be entitled to part or all of an estate that is currently deemed bona vacantia, then you must make a claim. The first step is to check whether the estate is listed with the Crown (you can find the list online, or you can contact the Treasury Solicitor’s Office – if it is, and you have evidence to show that you were related to the deceased (a birth, marriage, or death certificate) then it may be that your claim will be upheld.

If you are uncertain, then please do contact us – we can ensure you don’t miss out on what is rightfully yours.

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