Fact: No will means unclaimed estates will be claimed by the Crown

We really do seem to have a reluctance to write a will in this country. According to recent research, around 60% of adults in the UK have not written a will. We may shrug it off as something we’ll “get around to” or “maybe someday” – but there is a very serious underlying issue. If you do not write a will, your estate is likely to be claimed by the Crown.

You’ve heard wrong!
A lot of clients first come to me saying they had “heard a rumour” that if they are married, or have children, then their estate will automatically pass entirely to a spouse or son or daughter. If you have heard this same rumour, then you may have heard wrong as it depends on your circumstances! I am almost certain it is this complete myth which prevents thousands of people from writing their wills in the UK.

The numbers are real
Nearly 600,000 people died in the UK last year. It is estimated that two thirds of those will die without a will – or “intestate”. The fact is, those people are taking the risk that their estate will not be passed on as they would wish. In fact, in thousands of cases, it is likely that the Crown, or the state, will end up being the beneficiary of an unclaimed estate.

Bona Vacantia
There are so many unclaimed cases every year that it is some lawyers’ full time jobs to track down living beneficiaries. These probate researchers are more commonly known as heir hunters – and without them more than £2bn of wealth could go to the crown if no heirs are found. The list of heirs is looked after by the Government’s Bona Vacantia – a Latin phrase meaning “unclaimed goods” – a term which speaks for itself.

But, you shouldn’t be relying on the heir hunters. There are currently 168 unclaimed estates with the surname “Smith”, 252 for individuals who died in Birmingham and 42 for the people who were born in 1900.

In 2017, there were more than 2,800 unclaimed estates in Greater London alone, worth approximately £912m.

The only way you can make sure your wishes are carried out in relation to your estate is to write a will. It really doesn’t take very long and your plans are secure for the future. Downs Solicitors can help answer any questions you have relating to your will, as well as any advice relating to writing or changing a will. Contact us for more information.

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