Unclaimed Estates and the Potential of Inheritance

Mon 4th Dec 2017

Could you be the heir to an unclaimed estate? Put it this way, your chances of inheriting money or property are far higher than winning the lottery…

The odds of winning the Lotto jackpot are one in more than 45 million, and even five main numbers and the bonus ball are estimated at one in 7.5 million. On the other hand, the odds of inheriting an estate are far, far smaller, and while the sums of money involved probably won’t be in the retiring early, yacht-buying category, it could still mean a holiday, paying off debts, buying some furniture or redecorating the home.

What’s the first step to take if you think you could be the heir to an estate? Unclaimed estates are the results of someone dying without immediate next of kin, and that person not leaving a valid will. People don’t write wills for a variety of reasons – from not thinking they are old enough, not wanting to do something so ‘morbid’, not believing their estate is worth anything, not believing they have anyone to leave their goods to, or just not getting round to it.

We keep lists of all the unclaimed estates in the UK. That number currently stands at more than 14,000 estates. Any estates that are unclaimed before 2013 are listed as historical, and many of the estates on the list fit that category.

People move around much more these days, which can result in losing touch with family members or just knowing who and where your family is. A great aunt, a cousin on your mother or father’s side – they could be the ones who die believing they have no nearby kith or kin, and their estates end up on the lists of properties unclaimed.

How does the law work when it comes to intestacy? If a person dies without leaving a will, the order of inheritance is:

  • Wife, husband or civil partner
  • Children, grandchildren# great-grandchildren etc
  • Mother or father
  • Brothers or sisters who share both parents, or their children (a person’s nieces and nephews)
  • Half-brother or sisters or their children
  • Uncles and aunts, or their children (cousins or their descendants).

We publish weekly lists of all the unclaimed estates. You can create surname alerts through our website so that if the details of an unclaimed estate match your alert, we’ll send you an email. Sign up here.