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In June HM Procurator General and the Treasury Solicitor released the yearly accounts, covering the year till April 2018, for the Government’s Bona Vacantia division – the section of the Legal Department that collects the assets of dissolved companies and the estates of people who die without leaving a will or entitled blood relatives.
The division’s net income, including dissolved companies, in the financial year 2017-18 added up to £53 million, an almost 4% annual increase. The bulk of the income came from the companies division, with just £7 million collected from estates – down from the previous year’s £19 million, and the lowest total in seven years.
Bona Vacantia says the decline is down solely to the “number of large value (greater than £200,000) estates being administered”; however, we at Fraser and Fraser believe the fall to be a result of a change of policy in connection to the cases that the department take on, as well as a significant number of local authorities utilising the services of professional genealogists.
In 2015, the department altered its policy on accepting assets, and includes a statement in its accounts confirming that “before taking on the referral and commensurate with the potential value of assets, undertake checks to ensure that the assets are, or are likely to be, bona vacantia” – a distinct change on previous policy where assets were accepted, only to be repaid should a claim arise**.
Although the latest release of accounts do not give the number of estate cases handled by the department, we are able to see from the numbers that have been released, it is calculated that the department handled approximately 4000 cases compared to over 5000 in the previous year, a 20% fall. This calculation would match the significant fall in the money received.
The number of kin claims and amount of money paid out is also significantly down compared to previous years. This was anticipated as it is 5 years since the publication of a large number of historic cases were added to the website.
The department have reinstated their aims going forward to include:
*2011-2012 produces an income of £34 Million, however there was a single estate of John David Roberts who passed away in 1995 valued in excess of £10 Million.
Bona Vacantia translates from Latin to mean ‘ownerless goods’, and the department covers England and Wales with the exception of the Duchies of Cornwall or Lancaster. The department is informed of these unclaimed estates from several sources, mainly by local authorities, financial institutions, solicitors, firms of genealogists, and on occasion members of the public.
**The department is then obliged to repay the value of any asset to any blood relatives who can produce a valid claim, up to 12 years after the administration is completed, although claims up to 30 years after the date of death are paid on a discretionary basis.
Crown Nominees Accounts – 2018