Can the King take your money if you die without a Will?
Rules of intestacy
If a person has died without a Will, their estate will be distributed according to the Administration of Estates Act 1925. This Act sets out the rules of intestacy which determine who is entitled to inherit from an estate. If there are no living family members, then the estate passes to the Crown and the assets within the estate are known as ‘Bona Vacantia’. This is the name given to ownerless property and by law passes to the Crown.
There are three different types of Bona Vacantia including ownerless property that passes to the Duchy of Cornwall. This is an estate owned by the Duke of Cornwall:
- Ownerless property only passes to the Duchy of Cornwall where the individual that has died within Cornwall with no Will or surviving relatives.
- The second type of Bona Vacantia is ownerless property that passes to the Duchy of Lancaster. This estate is owned by King Charles III.
- The final type of Bona Vacantia is ownerless property from estates that fall outside of the regions where they would fall into either the Duchy of Cornwall or the Duchy of Lancaster.
It has recently been discovered that King Chares III is allegedly benefitting from the thousands of unclaimed estates from people in the North-West of England. This has been described by the Guardian newspaper as outrageous and the law around this area is in desperate need of reform.
What does King Charles III do with the money?
The Duchy of Lancaster, which is a private estate owned by King Charles III as the Duke of Lancaster, is believed to have benefitted enormously from unclaimed estates even though it claims that after paying costs, these assets are donated to charities. According to the Guardian, only a small percentage of these revenues is given to charity as internal Duchy documents have been seen to reveal the truth of how these funds have actually been used. The Duchy’s accounts suggest only 15% of the £61 million it has collected in unclaimed estates over the last decade has been donated to charities. The bulk of the funds are said to have been used to finance the renovation of properties owned by the King and these properties are subsequently rented out for profit. King Charles has received £26 million from the Duchy of Lancaster since he inherited the estate from his mother Elizabeth II.
A policy has now been released to give guidance on what bona vacantia funds could be spent on. This policy explains that such funds can be used to repair, restore, preserve and protect “heritage assets.” Heritage assets are listed buildings that are on the National Heritage List for England.
After the investigation by the Guardian, King Charles’ estate has revealed that it is transferring more than £100 million, which includes funds that have been collected through the archaic system of bona vacantia. There has however been no suggestion from the king’s estate that it plans to stop collecting funds from unclaimed estates or more any changes in the way the funds are to be spent.
The importance of putting a Will in place
The above emphasises the importance of putting a Will in place to protect your wishes especially if you do not have any close family members. In your Will you could choose to gift your estate to a friend, or a charity that is close to your heart. Making a donation to charity in your Will, can help fund research and provide them with the resources they need to contribute to the public and help people.
If you need advice about making or updating your will, please contact our friendly, specialist team on 01912329547 for a free estimate. You can meet the team face to face or via video call or by telephone.