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Please read our introduction to Bona Vacantia and Escheat before proceeding.

Will the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duchy of Cornwall be involved in my enquiry?

Our firm acts for the Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall where they have authority over bona vacantia. Please check if the postcode of the last address of the individual you're interested in falls within the boundaries of the Duchies. 

Duchy boundaries explained

When someone dies intestate (without a will) and without relatives entitled to the estate under the intestacy rules (known kin) the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall administer the estate if the person’s last known address falls within the Duchies’ respective geographical jurisdiction.

If the deceased’s last known address was in the County Palatine (largely Lancashire and parts of Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Cumbria) the Duchy of Lancaster has jurisdiction over the estate.

If the deceased’s last known address was in the County of Cornwall (the county boundary with Devon follows the River Tamar and the county includes the Isles of Scilly) the Duchy of Cornwall has jurisdiction over the estate.

To find out whether the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duchy of Cornwall may have authority over the estate you are interested in search for the postcode of the deceased's last known address using the buttons below.

DUCHY OF LANCASTER   DUCHY OF CORNWALL

If the postcode is not on the list, you will need to contact the Treasury Solicitor who represents the Crown in bona vacantia matters for the majority of England and Wales. The Duchies’ procedures for the administration of bona vacantia are very similar to those of the Treasury Solicitor.

Start your Bona Vacantia enquiry

If the estate is within the Duchies' jurisdiction, progress your enquiry below.

How kin can claim an estate

The Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall can only administer an estate if they have geographical jurisdiction over it. Use our postcode search if you have not used it yet.

If you have confirmed appropriate jurisdiction, click below to find out whether you may be entitled to the estate of a relative and what information you must provide so we can consider your claim. You may also wish to use GOV.UK’s online checker to see if your relationship with the deceased may allow a claim.

Please do not submit a claim to an estate until we have confirmed that the estate has been referred to us for administration.

Click here

Intestacy rules

The order of entitlement to the estate of someone who has died intestate.

1. The surviving spouse of the deceased,
2. Children of the deceased or remoter direct descendants,
3. The parents of the deceased,
4. The brothers and sisters of the deceased (firstly of the whole blood and secondly of the half-blood) or if they have died then their children or remoter direct descendants in their place,
5. The grandparents of the deceased, and
6. The uncles and aunts of the deceased (firstly of the whole blood and secondly of the half-blood) or if they have died then their children or remoter direct descendants in their place.

See section 46 Administration of Estates Act 1925

How to refer an intestate estate to us for administration

The Duchy of Lancaster and the Duchy of Cornwall can only administer an estate if they have geographical jurisdiction over it. Use our postcode search if you have not used it yet.

To refer an estate to us we will need evidence that the deceased died domiciled in the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duchy of Cornwall (usually the death certificate in the first instance) and information to establish the nature of the assets and any liabilities of the deceased.

If you are aware of kin who are entitled to an estate under the intestacy rules please make contact with them.

If they are entitled, whether or not they want to be involved, the Duchies do not have authority to administer the estate. If you wish to refer an estate but where entitlement of possible kin is not clear, please raise the matter with us.

Please note also that the death must have been registered and a death certificate available prior to referral for administration. Enquiries should also have been conducted into the possible existence of a will, or otherwise entitled kin.

Click below to download the BV1 Estate referral form and complete and return with the relevant paperwork.

Download form

Please note the Duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall cannot administer insolvent estates (where a person’s liabilities are greater than their assets) so we cannot consider such enquiries.

Discretionary payments may be available to those who are not entitled to make a claim to the estate under the intestacy rules, but might reasonably have expected to benefit from the estate of the deceased. Please contact us by email ([email protected]) for more information.

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Contact Us

If you have

  • read and answered the relevant questions on this page,
  • checked the relevant postcode using our boundary checker documents for Deceased Individuals to confirm that the estate you are interested in falls within the jurisdiction of the Duchy of Lancaster or the Duchy of Cornwall, and
  • not found an answer to your query or require further clarification.

Get in touch:

[email protected]

If you do not have access to email write to the address below including the requested information and marking your letter Bona Vacantia (not real property) Enquiry or Bona Vacantia Property Enquiry as appropriate.

Duchy of Lancaster or

Duchy of Cornwall (as appropriate)

Farrer & Co
66 Lincoln’s Inn Fields
London
WC2A 3LH

This publication is a general summary of the law. It should not replace legal advice tailored to your specific circumstances.

© Farrer & Co LLP

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