Over €2.4 Million Unclaimed From People Who Died Without Wills

This article was also covered in the Irish times

More than €2.4 million in unclaimed money is being held in the State’s coffers from the estates of people who died and left no wills and no known beneficiaries, new figures show.

Proposals to publish a list of such estates are under consideration by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.

When a person in Ireland dies without a will, their estate is divided among family members on the basis of rules laid down in the Succession Act 1965. If no beneficiaries can be found, the person’s estate, including property and savings, revert to the State. The proceeds are lodged to the intestate estate funds deposit account.

The Attorney General authorises the Chief State Solicitor’s Office to take out letters of administration and administer the estate. As part of this process, advertisements are placed in the media seeking next of kin, on a case-by-case basis.

If next of kin come forward, the Chief State Solicitor’s Office withdraws from the proceedings in favour of the next-of-kin, and any grant in favour of the State, if obtained, can be revoked.

More than €2.4 million is currently held in the account, representing more than 200 estates.

Cash accumulations from it are transferred at intervals to the Dormant Accounts Fund for onward distribution to charitable causes. In 2007, €4.4 million was transferred. It is understood the proceeds of estates remain in the deposit account, on average, for 15 years before being transferred to the dormant fund.

Fans of BBC TV’s Heir Hunters, in which probate genealogists race to find beneficiaries of intestate estates, will be familiar with the Bona Vacantia, a list of estates with no known beneficiaries published online by the UK treasury.

Online list

The Irish equivalent of the list, called Ultimate Intestate Successor, may be published online.

A spokeswoman for the department, with the assistance of the Chief State Solicitor’s Office, is examining the potential to make information in relation to intestate estates available publicly.

“This will require consultation with and approval by the Data Protection Commissioner,” she said.

Separately, there are more than 600 estates of Irish emigrants, who died intestate in England and Wales, published on the website unclaimedestates.ie.

Many are estates of unmarried people or those who were widowed and had no children.

Finders on the Pat Kenny Show – Newstalk

Padraic Grennan with Pat Kenny – Newstalk

Case study: worldwide search for cousins

Last month 45 people, mainly in Ireland, received the kind of news that has served as a plot for many a movie – news that they were due an inheritance.

In May this year an 86-year-old Irish woman died in Essex. Doreen*, a retired bank worker, outlived her husband by only two months, and the pair had no children. She had not left a will, but had left an estate, including property, worth more than £600,000 (€810,000).

The UK authorities published her name on a list of unclaimed estates, and the search began for her relatives.

Probate genealogists Finders International began researching Doreen’s background. The first step was to find her marriage certificate. From that, in the General Register Office in Dublin, her birth certificate was found, and the names of her parents were ascertained.

More birth certificates and a search through the census of 1911 showed her father was an only child, and her mother had six siblings, all deceased.

Padraic Grennan, of Finders, said more research showed one aunt had no children, so the estate was to be divided into five parcels and then dispersed among the descendants of Doreen’s five aunts and uncles.

Two of Doreen’s first cousins were found to be living in the US. They will each receive a 10th of the estate, while other relatives will receive a much smaller amount.

Finders gets a percentage of each inheritance, provided beneficiaries agree to sign contracts with the company. Beneficiaries don’t have to sign and can carry out their own research to prove their entitlement if they wish.

“Most of the descendants are living in the northwest of Ireland,” Mr Grennan said.

“I spent two days driving around the gorgeous countryside calling to people’s homes, telling them about the inheritance.” *Name changed for data protection reasons