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Unclaimed Millions – hunt on for Irish heirs to £10m

Unclaimed estates left to the British Treasury totals millions
Unclaimed estates left to the British Treasury totals millions

HUNDREDS of Irish names are on the British Treasury’s list of unclaimed estates.

Millions of pounds could therefore be lying in wait for the heirs of Irish people who died intestate in Britain.

One of the largest cases was that of an Irish women who left an estate in Belgravia, London, valued at almost €2m.

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Estates of those who die with no obvious next-of-kin automatically default to the Government. Each year approximately 2,000 cases are referred to the Treasury Solicitor’s Department.

Last year the British Government collected £33m in unclaimed estates.

Fraser & Fraser, a London firm specialising in probate research, has handled over £100m of inheritance in the past 10 years.

They estimate that Irish cases account for about 10 per cent of their caseload.

One case was the story of Michael Moran, who died in London aged 84 with an estate of £300,000. Born in Westport, Co. Mayo in 1922, Mr Moran died intestate in 2007 in Windsor.

Using parish records Mr Moran’s heirs were found and his estate was distributed.

Another of Fraser & Fraser’s three teams repatriated some €5.1million to beneficiaries in Ireland in a single 18- month period up to 2011.

At present Fraser & Fraser, who have featured on the BBC TV series Heir Hunters, have details of an unclaimed case valued at £45,000 under the name Michael Delaney, a 70-year-old bachelor who died in Luton, Bedfordshire in 2000.

The Bona Vacantia list, within the Treasury Solicitor’s Department, holds more than 10,500 unclaimed estates.

Among them are hundreds of Irish-born men and women who died intestate between 1997 and 2012.

Many Irish surnames such as Brennan, Connolly, Fitzgerald, Murphy, Kelly, O’Brien, O’Neill and O’Connor feature on the Treasury’s lists of unclaimed estates from across Britain, including London, West Yorkshire, Kent, Sussex, Essex and Staffordshire.

The list is updated weekly — however no values are included to avoid fraudulent claims. The Treasury only deals with solvent estates of £500 or more.

Many of these estates are worth little but others include bank savings, life insurance policies and real estate valued at tens of thousands of pounds.

Heir hunting in Ireland is notoriously difficult due to public records being destroyed in the early 1900s or Irish people refusing to register their marriages and births while the country was under British rule.

Peter Birchwood, senior partner of Celtic Research, based in Wales, has also been in the business of locating missing heirs for 40 years.

He says they deal with two to three Irish cases a week. He visits Ireland regularly and also makes use of a researcher based in Dublin. He told the Irish Post that they have no way of knowing the value of the estate they are dealing with. However, a recent case involved a man called Victor Anthony Jones, who died at Runcorn, Cheshire with an estate worth £170,000.

“Mr Jones’ mother was from Co. Cork,” Mr Birchwood said. “Hers was a large family, descended from John Holland, headmaster of the Ballinaspittle National School. It took us a long time to find the Holland family. The Jones side was a lot easier, but after research in Ireland, Scotland, Canada, the US and South America we managed to find them all.”

He added: “A large percentage died unmarried, joined religious orders or just did not have children. This estate was worth about £170,000 and has now been distributed to all of the heirs.”

Bona Vacantia make enquiries for entitled kin on their website as well as in national and local press advertisements.

Respondents are required to provide evidence of their blood relationship in the form of birth, marriage and death certificates, along with evidence of their identity.

Two thirds of people in Britain have no will and every year over 12,000 people die without leaving any entitled kin next-of-kin.

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Bona Vacantia list

The most recent Bona Vacantia list shows details of 16 deceased persons all listed with birthplaces in Ireland. These include:

■ John Sean O’Meara, a bachelor, aged 84 years who died in Lewisham, London, in April 2012

■ Mary Riordan, a spinster, aged 84 years, who died in Chelsea, London, in November 2007

■ John Watson, a bachelor, aged 82 years, who died in Plaistow, London, in October 2012

■ Eugene Fitzpatrick, a widower, aged 88 years, who died in Brighouse, West Yorkshire, in February 2007

■ Nora Linahan, a spinster, aged 68, died in Huntingdon, in October 2012

■ James Emmett O’Reilly, whose marital status is unknown, aged 58 years, who died in Harrow, Middlesex in April 1989

■ Maureen Lock, aged 75 years, who died in Basildon, Essex, in November 2012

■ Anthony McDonagh, a widower, aged 89 years, who died in Halifax, West Yorkshire in February 2008

■ Denis Shortiss, whose marital status is unknown, aged 81 years who died in Northolt, Middlesex, in November 2012

■ Patrick Joseph Russell a widower, aged 81 years, who died in Islington, London, in January 2012

■ Patrick Joseph Hendrick, a bachelor, aged 78 years, who died in Islington, London, in April 2012

■ Michael O’Donnell, aged 45 years, who died in Gillingham, Kent, in June 2003

■ William Berkeley, a bachelor, aged 93 years, died in Brighton, East Sussex, in August 2012

■ James O’Reaghan, known as John Joe, aged 71 years, died in Stafford, Staffordshire, in January 2013

■ Michael Duffy a bachelor, aged 74 years, born in Wicklow, who died in Tooting, London in October 2003

■ Micheal Ryan, a widower, born in Tipperary who died in Burtonupon- Trent in January 2013

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6 comments on “Unclaimed Millions – hunt on for Irish heirs to £10m”

  1. Alice Sellers (Costello)

    How can you find out if you are an heir?

    • admin

      Hi Alice,
      Fraser & Fraser may be able to help -

  2. Sharon

    I was told in February by a family member that a solicitor had been looking for me due to an inheritance they gave my name & address but I haven't heard anything yet but my family in Ireland have received letters I live in Scotland does that affect anything.

    • Geoff Sadler

      Millions are missing! I'd say locating missing heirs probably counts for the most missing assets cases. Has to be, since when people are inheriting money, probate court has to account for all the assets, money, real estate being inherited by heirs, especially when there is no will. Since there are so many cases of missing heirs or the need to begin locating missing heirs or an unclaimed estate, or unclaimed inheritance assets -- especially locating missing heirs and beneficiaries to unclaimed estates -- so there should be many easy, cheap ways to locate missing heirs or a missing inheritance, for example like American Research Bureau,, or maybe Locating missing heirs is obviously part of this process. And if it doesn't show up on the free missing money Websites -- there really should be a rated list of probate and estate research firms & probate investigation services.

  3. Shelia Mclamb

    My father William Paul Norris died March 30th,2014 he received a letter stating he had land in Ireland. I would really like to know.

  4. Shelia Mclamb

    My father William Paul Norris received a letter from Ireland stating he has heirs to property he has passed away since that time that was around three years ago when he received the letter I am his daughter the second daughter of three girls my name is Sheila Norris McLamb


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