Treasury Solicitor Bona Vacantia Estates Division Update

Industry: Genealogy

What to do when someone dies with no known next of kin and no will can be a tricky problem for solicitors. The rumour of no living relatives could be true, but investigation by a professional probate genealogist could turn up previously unheard of blood relatives, meaning that a referral to the Treasury Solicitor’s Bona Vacantia division (on the assumption that this is a Bona Vacantia estate) could be a costly waste of time, warns Daniel Curran of Finders Probate Genealogists.

United Kingdom (PRUnderground) April 11th, 2011

What to do when someone dies with no known next of kin and no will can be a tricky problem for solicitors. The rumour of no living relatives could be true, but investigation by a professional probate genealogist could turn up previously unheard of blood relatives, meaning that a referral to the Treasury Solicitor’s Bona Vacantia division (on the assumption that this is a Bona Vacantia estate) could be a costly waste of time, warns Daniel Curran of Finders Probate Genealogists.

Why costly? Because the Treasury Solicitor’s attitude towards estates with reportedly no known next of kin appears, more often than not, to be very protective of the estate assets on behalf of the Crown. As a result, the Treasury Solicitor is unlikely to have any sympathy with a solicitor who may have spent considerable time and money in simply trying to find out if any living next of kin actually exist.

Probate genealogists Finders offer a simple solution, QC approved, which can satisfy the Treasury Solicitor’s call for estates only to be referred to them only after ‘reasonable enquiries have been made’ (according to the Bona Vacantia Division’s own website).

In other words the Treasury Solicitor Bona Vacantia Estates division would prefer to know that they are actually entitled to an estate before it is referred to them, but equally don’t ask for solicitors to spend any money in establishing this and probably won’t reimburse those that do make enquiries.

Finders will undertake all investigations in order to either trace entitled next of kin to an apparently Bona Vacantia Estate or prove that there are no living and entitled relatives under intestacy law, all free of charge or risk. Finders then report their findings so that appropriate action can be taken; either a Grant can be taken out and the estate administration can begin, or the estate can safely be referred to the Treasury Solicitor in the knowledge that there really are no living next of kin who can inherit.

If Finders do find entitled relatives their Finders fee is agreed directly with such persons, expressed as a percentage of their net entitlement when the estate is actually distributed. This safeguards against any payments having to be recalled if, for example, half way through the estate administration under intestacy law, a will is found. The latter scenario would potentially de-instruct the solicitors handling the estate administration and any fees they may have paid out to third parties (such as genealogists) would then have to be recovered, thus a Finders fee approach further safeguards solicitors.

Furthermore, Finders have heard of many unlucky solicitors over the years that have been forced to write off thousands of pounds in time and expenses because the Treasury Solicitor’s Bona Vacantia estates division is not in a position to refund costs. This seems harsh and unfair, but the Crown seems to be on a similar mission to the Inland Revenue these days, in that they are keen to ‘earn’ money for their employers and have little sympathy. Finders, however, being experienced in these matters and being aware of the risks, are happy to try and find blood relatives entitled prior to the estate being passed to the Crown in order to establish whether or not the Crown should have an interest in the Bona Vacantia Estate in question. Finders operate in these situations on a ‘win some, lose some’ basis and are happy to refer their findings in order for an entitled blood relative to instruct a firm of solicitors to take out a grant at the earliest possible opportunity.

If a firm of solicitors has referred a Bona Vacantia estate to Finders, Finders will put the firm’s name forward for consideration by the prospective estate administrator and, should they instruct this firm, time costs and expenses can be recovered and further fees generated in acting in the estate administration. An opportunity that could have been lost (along with untold amounts in costs) if the solicitor had referred the estate immediately to the Bona Vacantia Estates division immediately, without first considering the option put forward by Finders.

‘No known next of kin’ or ‘no surviving relatives’ or ‘no family’ are phrases Finders often hears when carrying out their enquiries to find entitled blood relatives. However, despite the pessimism, there are a high number of cases that actually result in next of kin being identified and located. These heirs may be distant relatives, they may be living abroad and they may have never heard of the Deceased, but they are nevertheless entitled to inherit in priority to the Treasury Solicitor’s Bona Vacantia Estates division, acting on behalf of the Crown.

Put simply nothing is lost and no risk is incurred, whereas there are fees to be recovered and gained when a solicitor asks Finders to investigate any estate where there are seemingly no known next of kin.

Daniel Curran is MD of Finders International Probate Genealogists and can be contacted via www.findersuk.com

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