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HMRC internal manual

Debt Management and Banking Manual

Pre-enforcement: consider the defaulter: deceased customers: deceased estates passing to the Crown

If a person dies intestate (without leaving a will) and there appears to be no relative to inherit, the estate is deemed bona vacantia (literally ownerless goods) and passes to the Crown where it may be administered:

  • in England and Wales by the Treasury Solicitor
  • in Northern Ireland by the Crown Solicitor as the Treasury Solicitor’s nominee
  • in Scotland by the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer
  • in the Duchies of Cornwall and Lancaster by Farrer & Co, solicitors.

The Estates Group within the Bona Vacantia Division of the Treasury Solicitor each year deals with about 2,000 solvent estates with a net value of more than £500. They advertise for entitled relatives to come forward and if none do will administer the property and rights vesting in the Crown.

A person who considers they may be entitled to estate proceeds can make a claim to the Treasury Solicitor who will generally pay entitled relatives in full or may make a discretionary payment to non-entitled individuals.

If you are made aware that an estate has passed to the Crown:

  • check the website at to find out if the estate is being administered and if it is
  • write to the relevant body with details of HMRC’s debt.