People with these surnames in Norfolk could be sitting on potential fortunes from government’s unclaimed estate list
PUBLISHED: 15:06 06 November 2017 | UPDATED: 15:53 06 November 2017
Valuable estates and legacies of people who have died without making a will, worth a potential fortune to their relatives, are going unclaimed in Norfolk.
A government spreadsheet shows the legacies of 86 people who died in the county have not been claimed by any relatives, some of which have been listed for decades. A further 12 people born in Norfolk but who died elsewhere in the country are also on the database.
HM Treasury takes care of people’s homes and estates when someone has died without making a will or has no named next-of-kin.
Among the individuals whose legacies are yet to be claimed are those of bachelors and widowers born as far afield as Poland, Ukraine, Zimbabwe, Germany and Pakistan.
The vast majority are people who died alone and are listed as spinsters, widows, bachelors or single people. In Norwich alone, 30 estates have been left forgotten, while in Great Yarmouth there are 11 and 15 in King’s Lynn.
The estates could still potentially be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds to relatives – but the government usually only accepts claims up to 12 years after the administration of the estate.
Michelle Collins, principal at Cozens-Hardy solicitors in Norwich, said the figures reiterated how important it is for people to make a will.
“As solicitors we do our very best to advise our clients it’s important to make a will,” she said. Yet statistics show only 38pc of people do so.
“A lot of people don’t like to think about their own mortality and therefore push it to the back of their minds and ignore it,” she said. And she warned: “I don’t think it’s common knowledge what happens to their estates if they don’t have a will.
“Most people would say it goes to their wife, husband or next-of-kin. When you sit down and explain to them where the money actually will go, it’s not always what they anticipated.
“If we can get people to engage with that topic and have a conversation, usually they will make a will. It’s getting over that first hurdle and having that conversation.
“At the end of the day, they are helping the people they have left behind by making a will.”
Helen Parkes, managing partner at Hatch Brenner solicitors in Norwich, said many people see making a see as tempting fate.
However she said: “It should be the opposite – it is like taking an umbrella with you in case it rains.
“People don’t like to think about it and it’s one of those things they think won’t happen to them.”
She also said that some people in complex family situations “don’t know what to do for the best – so they just do nothing”.
Part of the problem when someone does not make a will, she said, is that someone has to be chosen to administer their estate – which may not necessarily be the person they would have chosen.
The surnames are:
■ Dunham (x2)
■ Jones (x2)
■ Nelson (x2)