What is Bona Vacantia?
"Bona Vacantia" is a Latin phrase meaning "vacant goods". In legal terms, it means
property that has no known owner. One of the most common situations leading to ownerless property is
when someone dies without any known heirs, or where their heirs are untraceable.
By law, Bona Vacantia property passes to the Crown and is administered by the Treasury Solicitor's Department.
The Bona Vacantia Division (BVD) of the Treasury Solicitor's Department then publishes all the known details
of the deceased, so that anyone who may be entitled to a share in the estate can make a claim on it.
Who is entitled to claim
If someone dies without leaving a 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
- 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)
So, for example, if you are a first cousin of the deceased, you would only be entitled to share in the estate
if there are no relatives who are higher in the order of entitlement.
Making a claim
If you believe that you are entitled to share in a Bona Vacantia estate, then you should contact BVD with
information which shows how you are related to the deceased. BVD will be able to guide you through the claim
process and advise you on what you need to be able to prove your entitlement.
BVD Website (external site, link opens in a new window)