The Government Legal Department’s Bona Vacantia division has reported a significant year-on-year rise in income, according to its recently released accounts.

In the 2019-20 period, the division’s income was £70m (up from £62m in 2018-19), with receipts rising to £114m, up from £98m in 2018-19. Among the reasons the division gave for the increase were a higher volume of cases received via financial institutions, an increased public awareness of bona vacantia, and a rise in the value of estate receipts.

The division also announced an uplift in cases from 55,000 in 2018-19 to 57,000 in 2019-2020, with the sum realised from estates increasing to £22m in 2019-20 from £12m the previous year.

Pointing out that the number of new referrals this year had increased only slightly in comparison to 2018-19, Sir Jonathan Jones QC, treasury solicitor and permanent secretary of the Government Legal Department, added: “It can take a number of years to realise the value of an estate and the value of assets for each estate can vary considerably. This explains why the increase in the value of receipts is significant despite a minor increase in the number of referrals this year.”

Sir Jonathan added that there had been an “anticipated” fall in the number of kin claim applications in 2019-20. He added: “The list of unclaimed estates has been published for a number of years now. The publicity around ‘the list’, along with a popular TV programme, resulted in a high number of claims in previous years that have now tapered off.”

The amount raised from dissolved companies meanwhile rose to £92m in 2019-20 (up from £85m in 2018-19), with the number of company case referrals rising by 2,000 to 54,000.