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Heir Hunters U.K.

Updated on August 21, 2018
ethel smith profile image

With a keen interest in British politics this writer is never afraid to share her opinion

Heir Hunters BBC1

Heir Hunters

BBC1 in the U.K. runs a daytime show called “Heir Hunters.”

It offers a fascinating insight into the world of companies that attempt to track down the loved ones of people who have died without making a will.

There are far more people than you may imagine who die alone in every sense of the word.

For whatever reason a person may be estranged from family members and even unknown to newer members of a family.

Heir Hunter companies tend to chase unclaimed estates that have been left in this state for a period of time.

In England if an estate is not claimed by a 30 year deadline it goes to the crown.

Yes the already very wealthy royals and establishment are the big winners.

When a heir hunter company begins to search for a particular family name’s members they have a limited knowledge.

Crucially the company has no idea if the estate comprises of a high value property or just a few pounds.

There is actually a minimum value in estates listed on the government website that heir hunters use but costly research by a team of staff and probable detectives may end up losing the company money.

The Heir Hunters show follows a range of cases with some big winners and a few losers.

As they try to track down the next of kin a family member may be contacted and be hopeful of being a beneficiary only to have those hopes dashed when a closer blood line contact is discovered.

One thing this show highlights is the importance of making a Last Will and Testament or plain old Will.

List Of Unclaimed Estates Held by Treasury Solicitor

This list is uodated regularly as some estates are claimed, others expire and new cases are added
This list is uodated regularly as some estates are claimed, others expire and new cases are added

Bona Vacantia

Bona Vacantia or BVD, the Bona Vacantia division of the British government handles everything relating to unclaimed estates.

‘Bona Vacantia’ means vacant goods and is the name given to ownerless property, which by law passes to the Crown.

The Treasury Solicitor acts for the Crown to administer the estates of people who die intestate (without a Will) and without known kin (entitled blood relatives) and collect the assets of dissolved companies and other various ownerless goods in England and Wales.

BVD is part of the Government Legal Department.

Heir Hunter companies operate across the U.K. but you can undertake the work yourself.

If you are contacted by a Heir Hunter company you do not have to use them but if you do it will cost you. Most deduct a charge of up to around 30% of the value of an estate. If it turns out there are many beneficiaries your inheritance may end up pretty small.

However researching a complicated family history can take time and money and for some using a Heir Hunter company is the best way forwards.

Heir Hunters and Me

Having watched Heir Hunters on TV imagine my surprise when I received a letter purporting to be from a legal company regarding an unclaimed estate.

My first reaction was it was a scam and I did not respond immediately.

I looked the company up online and ultimately decide to ring them as requested.

With a complicated family background during the early 1900s I envisioned the contact related to my late father’s step family who are unknown to me but it was to his late mother’s family.

Dad’s mother, my paternal grandmother, died around 1916/17 when he was a young child and the unclaimed estate belonged to one of this woman’s sisters.

The money is very small but the family large

What is important to me is the revelation of family members who were unknown to me.

On completion of an estate the family members receive a full family tree.

For someone like myself whose Dad died when I was aged 17 and Mum when I was 23 so much previously inaccessible information floods out.

I have actually been able to track down details of my late grandfather who died when the merchant navy vessel he served on was hit by a German U Boat missile and sank off the coast of Egypt in 1941.

Grandpa was aged 51 at time of death but there was no upper age limit for merchant navy seamen.

It has been a fascinating, poignant, satisfying and unexpected journey for me.

I opted to use the company that contacted me as without them I had no idea the deceased person even existed.

For me the family tree is invaluable.

Discovering My Grandfather

Watch Out For Fakes And Scams

Sadly there are fake companies and individuals operating in this industry in the U.K.

Most genuine researchers do need some personal proof of identification such as a birth certificate but scammers may grab your identity for malicious use.

One scam involves contacting anyone with the same surname as an unclaimed estate and offering, for a small fee, a full report.

In the 21st Century we all need to be scam aware.

If someone contacts you check out their credentials as thoroughly as possible.

If they ask for money up front show them the door.

Genuine or Fake?



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    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      19 months ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      For me it has been a big bonus. Like many people we have a complicated family tree and it has been fascinating

      Thanks Peggy

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      19 months ago from Houston, Texas

      It is nice that you found more of your family history because of this even if the amount of money involved was small. I can well imagine that there are plenty of scammers out there!

    • ethel smith profile imageAUTHOR

      Ethel Smith 

      19 months ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      Thanks Liz.

      Imaine when they contacted me. I was amazed and a little sceptical at first

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      19 months ago from UK

      This is a fascinating article with an interesting personal angle.


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