Guidance

Make a claim to a deceased person's estate

Find out if you are an entitled relative and how to claim an estate from the Bona Vacantia division.

Overview

The Bona Vacantia division (BVD) of the Treasury Solicitor’s department administers the estates of people who die without known blood relatives and without leaving a Will.

Check your entitlement

If someone dies without leaving a Will the following are entitled to the estate in the order shown below:

  1. husband, wife or civil partner
  2. children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and so on
  3. mother or father
  4. brothers or sisters who share both the same mother and father, or their children (nieces and nephews)
  5. half brothers or sisters or their children (nieces and nephews of the half blood or their children). ‘Half ’ means they share only one parent with the deceased
  6. grandparents
  7. uncles and aunts or their children (first cousins or their descendants)
  8. half uncles and aunts or their children (first cousins of the half blood or their children)

If you are, for example, a first cousin of the deceased, you would only be entitled to share in the estate if there are no relatives who are higher in the order of entitlement.

If your relationship to the deceased is traced through someone who survived the deceased but has since died, you will need to confirm what happened to that person’s estate.

Children are only entitled to share in an estate if their parent died before the deceased, in which case they take their parent’s share of the deceased’s estate. If their parent survived the deceased but has subsequently died, then whoever is dealing with their estate should claim (see below).

Make a claim to BVD

The Treasury Solicitor publishes a list of all estates which have yet to be claimed since 1997 (when computer records began). This list is updated daily, with new estates added and estates which have been claimed taken off.

If you believe you are entitled to share in an estate which has been dealt with by BVD, please send them a family tree which shows how you are related to the person who has died, and include the dates of birth, marriage and death of all those on the tree.   If it appears that you may be entitled to share in the estate, BVD will then ask you to supply evidence that clearly demonstrates your entitlement.

This can include:

  • full birth certificates (showing the parents’ names) and marriage certificates of each person (including yours and the deceased’s) between you and the deceased. If BVD need death certificates of any of those in the family chain, these will be requested separately
  • identification documents which provide proof of your name and of your name linked to your address (see a list of acceptable ID documents at the end of this guide)
  • court sealed copies of Grants of Probate or Letters of Administration if you are claiming as a personal representative
  • information that you or any other person may have regarding the deceased person’s life history, including their occupation, last known address and when you were last in contact with them
  • an explanation, supported by evidence, of any discrepancies in the documents supplied with your claim or about any missing documents

BVD may also ask you for other evidence if needed.

Claims from personal representatives

If an entitled relative survived the deceased but has since died, that relative’s personal representative must make a claim to the deceased person’s estate. A personal representative is either the executor of their Will or the person entitled to share in their estate if they did not leave a Will.

If your relationship to the deceased is traced through someone who survived the deceased but has since died, you will need to confirm what happened to that person’s estate.

Obtaining documents for your claim

Certificates issued in the United Kingdom can be obtained from the local registrar where the event took place or as follows:

England and Wales

General Register Office
PO Box 2
Southport
Merseyside
PR8 2JD

Further information can be found on the General Register Office website.

Scotland

Register General
General Registration Unit
Room 44
New Register House
Edinburgh
EH1 3YT

Further details can be found on the Scottish General Register Office website

Northern Ireland

Before 1922:

General Register Office
Government Offices
Roscommon
Republic of Ireland

Further details can be found on the Republic of Ireland General Register Office website.

After 1922:

Register General for Northern Ireland
Oxford House
49-55 Chichester Street
Belfast
BT1 4HL

Further details can be found on the Register General for Northern Ireland website.

Translation

If you are supplying certificates and identity documents in languages other than English you will need to supply a certified English translation of each document.

Proving claims

You must provide sufficient documentary evidence to satisfy BVD that, on balance, you are related to the deceased and entitled to share in their estate before the Crown.

If you are in any doubt about how to prove your claim, you should seek your own advice, from a solicitor, local law centre or the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. The Treasury Solicitor cannot advise you.

Admission of claims

BVD will deal with, and admit, the first fully documented claim they receive which is supported by sufficient evidence.

Once a claim is accepted BVD do not need claims from other relatives, as their claim is protected by law and should be made direct to the successful claimant or their representative, as it is their legal duty to deal with the estate appropriately.

Personal information and prevention of crime

BVD will only release information about the value of the estate, or the assets and liabilities, to a successful claimant.

Time limits

Claims will be accepted by BVD within, generally, 12 years from the date that the administration of the estate was completed and interest will be paid on the money held.

However, BVD will admit claims up to 30 years from the date of death, subject to no interest being paid on the money held, if the claim is received after the 12 year period above has run out.

Genealogists

Genealogists are private organisations who trace potentially entitled relatives for commercial gain. They do not work for the Treasury Solicitor, but often make enquiries for blood relatives after BVD advertises an estate. You do not have to use a genealogist’s services if you do not wish to do so, and such a decision does not affect any entitlement you may have to share in an estate.

If you are contacted by a genealogist, it is up to you whether you use their services and BVD cannot advise you in this respect.

Identity documents

You must submit one form of identification as proof of your name and one as proof of your name linked to your address.

You cannot use one form of identification for both name and address. For example, if you provide your driving licence as proof of your name you must provide another form of identification for your address, such as a utility bill.

Documents BVD will accept as evidence of formal identification

Name Address
Current signed passport Utility bill (gas, electric, satellite television, landline phone bill) issued within the last three months
Original birth certificate (issued within 12 months of the date of birth) in full or short form including those issued by UK authorities overseas such as Embassies High Commissions and HM Forces) Water bill issued for the current financial year
EEA member state identity card Local authority council tax bill for the current council tax year
Current UK or EEA photocard driving licence, with counterpart paper licence EEA member state identity card
Full old-style driving licence. Current UK or EEA photocard driving licence, with counterpart paper licence
Photographic registration cards for self-employed individuals in the construction industry - CIS4 Original mortgage statement from a recognised lender issued for the last full year
Confirmation from DWP of state benefits issued within the current year Solicitor’s letter confirming recent (within previous three months) house purchase or current Land Registry title view
Firearms or shotgun certificate Council or housing association rent card/statement or tenancy agreement for the current financial year
Residence permit issued by the Home Office to EEA nationals on sight of own country’s passport Confirmation from DWP of state benefits issued within the current year
Medical card or letter of confirmation from GP’s practice of registration with the surgery Bank, Building Society or Credit Union statement (dated within the last three months) or passbook.
  HMRC self-assessment letters or tax demands dated within the current financial year
  Medical card or letter of confirmation from GP’s practice of registration with the surgery

Documents BVD will not accept include, but are not limited to

  • Provisional driving licence
  • Mobile phone bills
  • Credit or store card statements

Copies of documents

BVD will only accept good quality copies of certificates and identification documents if they have been certified by one of the following as a true copy of the original that they have seen:

  • UK solicitor
  • Justice of the Peace
  • accountant
  • high street bank manager
  • a qualified lawyer (or notary public if you live outside the United Kingdom)
  • the Post Office’s ID checking service (in which case, please also include the completed ID Checking Service form which has been stamped by the Post Office)

The person certifying must also provide the name and address of the firm or bank in which they are employed (unless documents have been certified under the Post Office ID Checking Service).

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