K for Kin

14 April 2016

A person’s closest living relative is frequently referred to as their ‘next of kin‘. In the United States, this has a legal definition. However, in the United Kingdom and many other countries across the globe, it has no legal definition and may not necessarily refer to blood relatives at all.

When it comes to intestacy, the law states that the estate passes to the deceased’s spouse or children. If neither exists, then the estate is distributed to the closest group of living relativesi.e. parents, siblings or the descendants (full, then half blood), grandparents, aunts and uncles, first or second cousins in extreme cases. If a person dies intestate with no identifiable next of kin, the estate generally legally reverts to the Government. The legal term for this is ‘an escheat‘.

Now, did you know? …. When someone dies in either Lancashire or Cornwall with no Will or surviving relatives, “their property (or ‘estate’) passes to the Duchy …  After any discretionary payments have been made, His Royal Highness chooses to donate all monies from Bona Vacantia [the legal name for ownerless property] to the Duke of Cornwall’s Benevolent Fund, which he established in 1975 …” (Source: Duchy of Cornwall website, FAQ#25). The same is true in Lancashire with the Duchy of Lancaster Benevolent Fund, established in 1993. The two funds benefit a wide range of charitable associations and organisations operating within the Duchy.

The Bona Vacantia Division (BVD) deals with intestate estates valued at over £500. A list of unclaimed estates is published every day, with claimed estates being removed from the spreadsheet and newly referred cases added. This list is available for all members of the public to view – are there any names you recognise? Could you be entitled to make a claim?

So, you are entitled and file your claim with the Government Legal Department… Once your claim has been filed, how long does the intestacy process take to be finalised? When are the funds likely to be paid out?

Heaven alone knows! Too many variables and so many of which are ‘out of our hands’! No breath holding folks….!

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