FAQS FOR HEIRS

WHAT DOES BONA VACANTIA MEAN?

‘Bona Vacantia’ literally means vacant goods and is the legal name for ownerless property that passes to the Crown. The Treasury Solicitor administers the estates of persons who die intestate without known kin and collect the assets of dissolved companies and failed trusts.

DO I HAVE TO USE RESEARCH ROOTS?

No. A variety of probate research companies operate in this area and if you are entitled to inherit a share of a Bona Vacantia estate, you may be approached by more than one probate researcher. It is up to you to decide which company best suits. You may wish to compare proposed rates of commission and conduct your own due diligence before agreeing any terms of business. You may find it useful to make use of testimonials from past clients and the solicitors with whom we work.

You are not obliged to use any probate researcher at all, if you think you can establish a claim yourself. However, given the complexities of administrating and distributing a Bona Vacantia estate, you may feel a professional can offer a speedier, hassle-free experience. Please be aware that if you do decide not to make use of our services, we are under no obligation to divulge the results of our research.

DOES RESEARCH ROOTS WORK FOR THE GOVERNMENT?

No. Research Roots is an entirely independent research consultancy. We do make use of government and public records and liaise with governmental departments, if you employ us to register a claim on your behalf.

HOW DO I KNOW THIS ISN’T A SCAM?

We have contacted you after identifying an unclaimed estate in which we believe you may be entitled to share. You do not need to undertake any work or incur any expenses to prove your entitlement. We only ask to be paid the pre-agreed fee if and when you receive a share of the estate. You are encouraged to call us with questions, however large or small, and check our credentials with the solicitors with whom we work.

WHAT IS ESTATE ADMINISTRATION?

When someone dies, their money and property (simply, their ‘estate’) must be dealt with. The deceased person’s taxes and debts must be paid off, and their money and property distributed to the people entitled to it. When the deceased has a left a valid will, the person or people charged with dealing with the estate are called ‘Executors’. If the deceased left an invalid will or no will at all (i.e. they are ‘intestate’), there will be no named executors to deal with the estate. Somebody else therefore has to take responsibility. In order to do so legally they will have to obtain a ‘Letter of Administration’ from the Probate Registry. So this person is known as an ‘Administrator’.

It is usual for one of the beneficiaries to become the Administrator for the estate, and in turn to instruct a Solicitor who can administer the estate on their behalf and provide any necessary advice. The administering solicitors will supervise the sale of any assets of the estate, use the capital to settle debts, taxes and costs and distribute the proceeds to all the beneficiaries who can be located. This process may be complicated if beneficiaries cannot be found, adoption issues or any claims made by non-blood relations.

WHO IS ENTITLED TO BENEFIT?

Entitled beneficiaries are usually blood relatives of the deceased, however adopted relatives are also deemed ‘blood line’ and so entitled to inherit. Under English law, the immediate descendants of the deceased (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren) stand first in line to inherit, followed by parents, siblings (full, then half-siblings) and their issue nephews, nieces, grand-nephews and grand-nieces. Finally, grandparents, uncles and aunts (full, then half-), first cousins and their issue – first cousins once and twice removed – are entitled.

Since step-siblings or other relatives are not deemed ‘blood line’, they are not entitled to inherit. Please see this graphic chart.

WHAT SHARE OF AN ESTATE WILL EACH BENEFICIARY RECEIVE?

The share to which you are entitled is governed by laws of intestacy and will depend your relationship to the deceased and how many other heirs there are. It will also depend on the residual value of the estate once administration has been completed. We can usually only determine what you are entitled to towards the very end of the administration process once the all fees, taxes and any other costs have been settled.

Please feel free to contact us with any further questions you may have.