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Long-lost families could claim ownerless estates in Sittingbourne, Sheppey and Faversham

Dozens of unclaimed estates in Kent mean some could be entitled to a windfall from a long dead relative - if they can prove their lineage.

According to the Government's Legal Department (GLD), there are 13,619 collections of ownerless goods – called Bona Vacantia – left by people who died without a will or known next-of-kin.

Of these, 19 were either born in, died in, or were very closely associated with either Sittingbourne, Sheppey, Faversham, or the surrounding villages.

Some estates remain unclaimed because the owner died without leaving a will. Stock picture
Some estates remain unclaimed because the owner died without leaving a will. Stock picture

They include a will left from a single woman born in 1906 in Stratford, London, but who died on Sheppey in 2000, with Kent County Council informing officials of her death.

There is also a Sittingbourne-born bachelor who passed away in Thanet in 1993 and survived all of his siblings and immediate family members, who were all from Milton Regis and Sheppey.

While the list appears to be extensive, it will not help those who believe they are the descendent of a wealthy historical figure as it only covers those whose estates were referred from January 1997 onwards – when the department started storing records electronically.

As a result, the true number of estates under the Crown’s ownership is likely to be much higher.

Due to legal rules, potential beneficiaries cannot check what they might receive because details of assets are not revealed, as part of fraud prevention.

However, it can be assumed that many of them are fairly large as it does not deal with anything with a net value below £500 and estates can be limitless in their worth.

Unfortunately for those who suspect they are related to someone long dead, numerous pieces of evidence are required before cash lands in any bank accounts, including a family tree and birth certificates that prove an authentic link to the dead person.

A spokesman for the Government's Legal Department said it did not have details for the number of successful claims made each year or how many fraudulent attempts are made to get money and property.

She added: “The estates advertised on the unclaimed list are directed at entitled kin.”

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