When a person dies without leaving a will and there appear to be no family members the estate passes to the Treasury as ownerless property, or ‘Bona Vacantia’. 

An estate can be anything from property, personal possessions and money. 

In general, estates held on the Bona Vacantia list can be claimed within a 12-year deadline, from the date the estate was taken into possession of the Crown

You could be entitled to a share of a deceased relative’s property if you are related. 

And to find out if you are, all you need to do is search you're surname and see if there is an unclaimed estate you could be entitled to. 

There are dozens of estates left unclaimed by people who were either born or died in South East London: 


The list of unclaimed estates is updated and published daily on the government’s website. 

When it comes to unclaimed estates before 1997, the Treasury will allow claims up to 30 years from the date of the person’s death, subject to no interest being paid on the money that is held - if the claim is received after the 12-year period has ended.

If someone dies without leaving a valid or effective will the following are entitled to the estate in the order shown below:

  • husband, wife or civil partner
  • children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and so on
  • mother or father
  • brothers or sisters who share both the same mother and father, or their children (nieces and nephews)
  • half brothers or sisters or their children (nieces and nephews of the half blood or their children). ‘Half ’ means they share only one parent with the deceased
  • grandparents
  • uncles and aunts or their children (first cousins or their descendants)
  • half uncles and aunts or their children (first cousins of the half blood or their children). ‘Half’ means they only share one grandparent with the deceased, not both

If you are, for example, a first cousin of the deceased, you would only be entitled to share in the estate if there are no relatives above you in the order of entitlement, for example, a niece or nephew.