Unclaimed estates: list of surnames in England and Wales most likely to mean you are owed a lost inheritance

Type in your surname to our interactive tool to see if you could be a lost heir, according to bona vacantia data on people who died without a will.

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Every year hundreds of people die in the UK without a will or next of kin, leaving behind their assets as unclaimed estates.

The Crown is currently sitting on almost 7,000 such estates in England and Wales, according to a Government database, just waiting for a relative to come forward and claim the potential fortune.

NationalWorld has analysed the data to create a searchable table, allowing you to type in your surname to see if you could be owed a long lost inheritance.

What happens to unclaimed estates? 

When someone dies without leaving a will, and there appears to be no family members, their estate is passed to the Crown as ownerless property.

Inheriting an estate means gaining a share of anything the person has left behind, from money to personal possessions to property.

Generally, estates held on the list can be claimed within a 12-year deadline from when the estate was taken into possession of the Crown, meaning you could inherit from an unknown deceased relative.

For any fully documented claims, you can claim from up to 30 years from the date of death, subject to no interest being paid on the money held, if the claim is received after the 1-year period has run out.

Who is entitled to an unclaimed estate? 

If someone dies without leaving a valid or effective will, the following are entitled to the estate in the order below:

  1. husband, wife or civil partner
  2. children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so on
  3. mother or father
  4. brothers or sisters who share both the same mother and father, or their children (nieces and nephews)
  5. 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
  6. grandparents
  7. uncles and aunts or their children (first cousins or their descendants)
  8. half uncles and aunts or their children (first cousins of the half blood or their children). ‘Half’ means they only share one grandparent with the deceased, not both

What are the most common surnames on the list?

There are almost 3,900 surnames on the list which have some unclaimed estates attached to them.

At the top of the list is ‘Smith’ which has 122 unclaimed estates, followed by Jones (77 unclaimed estates), Taylor (51 unclaimed estates), and Brown (48 unclaimed estates) and Williams (45 unclaimed estates).

The top 10 are:

  1. Smith - 122 unclaimed estates
  2. Jones -78 unclaimed estates
  3. Taylor - 50 unclaimed estates
  4. Brown - 47 unclaimed estates
  5. Williams - 44 unclaimed estates
  6. Wilson - 36 unclaimed estates
  7. Johnson - 35 unclaimed estates
  8. Davies - 32 unclaimed estates
  9. Thomas -31 unclaimed estates
  10. King - 28 unclaimed estates

This data was correct as of 25 May 2022.

Nationality of those who left unclaimed estates 

The unclaimed estate list also lists a wide range of people born in different countries and emigrated to the UK.

The top 10 countries where people in this list were born are:

  1. England
  2. Poland
  3. Ireland
  4. India
  5. Jamaica 
  6. Germany 
  7. Hungary
  8. Scotland
  9. Nigeria 
  10. Ukraine

However, sometimes specific cities or regions are listed as the place of birth, and other times just the country is listed, so looking at the most commonly listed places may not give the full picture.

Not all estates have a place of birth recorded for the deceased person.

How to find out if you could inherit an unclaimed estate

NationalWorld has put together a table for you to see if your surname means you could inherit an unclaimed estate.

The table also shows the place of death of each deceased person with that surname, where that information is included in the database, to help you look for potential family connections.

Simply type in your surname below to see how many unclaimed estates are to your name.


Can’t see the table? Click here to open it in a new window.

How to view the estate information and make a claim

The database is updated every day and entries past the 30-year expiry removed  – you can download the list of unclaimed estates on the GOV.UK website to view in detail. Claims can be made to the Bona Vacantia Division (BVD).

How you make a claim will vary. If you are related to an entitled relative, listed above, who survived the deceased but since died, that relative’s personal representative must make the claim to the estate.

To make a direct claim, you will need to send the BVD your family tree, detailing how you are related to the person who has died. You will also need full birth certificates, ID, and an explanation of any discrepancies. For further details check GOV.UK.