Latin for ‘vacant goods’, bona vacantia is the term given to ownerless property, which by law passes to the Crown. If a person dies intestate (without a will in their name), their possessions will pass to their next of kin – such as their children or married partner.
However, if the deceased has no known kin, their possessions pass to the Crown, which administers their estate until a relative makes a claim on their estate. The UK government publishes a list of estates, which is updated frequently to include the latest unclaimed estates. Get more info about this at https://brazeauseller.com/services/wills-and-estate-administration/.
Here, the wills and probate solicitors at Beecham Peacock have trawled through the latest list of unclaimed estates to find out which surnames have the best chance of being entitled to property. Maybe it’s a distant relative – or maybe it’s a coincidence? There’s only one way to find out.
• Smith is the most commonly-held surname to have an unclaimed estate, with 111 different estates remaining unclaimed.
• Jones is the second-most commonly-held surname, with 71 estates sitting unclaimed.
• Williams (47), Brown (46), and Taylor (41) round out the top five.
• Birmingham is the area with the most unclaimed estates with 152, followed by Leeds with 107.
• Bradford (69) and the London boroughs of Camden (66) and Lewisham (62) round out the top five locations with the most unclaimed estates.
• Wilson (35), Thomas (33), Johnson (31), Davies (30) and Ryan (26) are the 5th–10th most common surnames for unclaimed estates.
The most popular surnames with unclaimed estates
GOV.UK hosts a list of unclaimed estates, which is updated daily with details of new estates. The list covers unclaimed estates with dates of death ranging all the way back to June 1974 – almost fifty years ago!
The document contains information about aliases that the person might’ve had in order to try and reconcile their estate with relatives. Some of the entries feature a little extra information on why the estate has remained unclaimed – such as missing death certificates, and people who died whiledomiciled in another country.
As of June 14th 2023, there were 6,370 estates remaining unclaimed as bona vacantia. If your last name is the same as one of the names listed below, you’ve got the best chance of being entitled to some or all of their estate.
|Surname||Number of unclaimed estates|
The regions with the most unclaimed estates
The data set also includes information on which region of the country the unclaimed estate is. While the estate may not include property, the estate will be based in that area.
Below are the areas with the highest numbers of unclaimed estates – if you’re aware of a distant family member passing away in one of these areas, you may be entitled to their unclaimed estate.
|Location||Number of unclaimed estates|
|Birmingham, West Midlands||152|
|Leeds, West Yorkshire||107|
|Bradford, West Yorkshire||69|
|Camden, London (NW1)||66|
|Lewisham, London (SE13)||62|
|Hammersmith, London (W6)||53|
How to claim an unclaimed estate
If you believe you may be entitled to a deceased relative’s unclaimed estate, there are some steps you’ll have to take to discover what’s yours.
First, you’ll have to check whether the relative’s estate is listed with the Crown. If you’re able to find the estate you believe is your relative’s – from this extensive GOV.UK document – you’ll have to confirm that you’re an entitled relative.
Once you’ve done so, you’ll be entitled to make a claim to the estate. You may be entitled to a portion of the estate or all of it, depending on whether there are any other claimants. It is strongly recommended that you choose a trustworthy solicitor to support you through this process. They’ll ensure you take the right steps to get everything you’re entitled to.
Anna Harbinson, Solicitor at Beecham Peacock, comments: “The number of unclaimed estates in the UK grows bigger every day – and often, many of the deceased’s records are missing, indicating a lack of available information. If you have any information about a distant family member who has passed away, you could help connect the rest of your family to their estate.”