Live in a Scottish castle: how you could inherit one of 425 unclaimed estates with a simple check of your family tree

A simple check on your family tree could let you lay claim to one of the hundreds of Scottish estates whose owners have died without making a will – some of them worth as much as £370,000.

There are currently 425 unclaimed estates across Scotland, according to a new list published by the Government, which could be anything from property to cash or other assets such as pensions or shares.

These estates are regarded as unclaimed because their owners died intestate with no obvious next of kin.

Such cases are known as “Ultimus Haeres” — Latin for ultimate heir.

Their assets automatically fall under the care of the Crown but can be claimed by anyone who can prove they are next of kin to the deceased.

The estates are published on a “Bona Vacantia”, or vacant goods list of property without an apparent owner, managed in Scotland by the Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer.

Some of the more uncommon surnames on the latest list include Hunniball, Malone-Philban and Raube, so if that’s your surname, too, it’s worth checking your family tree to see if you can prove a blood link.

If you think you could be related, you can then submit an application to inherit the estate.

Since 2016, when the Succession Act was passed by the Scottish Parliament, it has been easier to apply for ownership of an unclaimed estate.

Previously, claimants had to obtain a “bond of caution” – a type of insurance only provided by a small number of firms – but the Act means this is no longer necessary.

If no next of kin are established, the estates will revert to the Crown after 20 years.

Some firms, known as “heir hunters” or probate genealogists, specialise in tracing long-lost relatives for unclaimed estates.

This year, Londoner Margaret Abbotts, 81, inherited £300,000 from a half-sister she had never met and who may never have known she existed, after she was contacted out of the blue by a law firm specialising in forensic genealogy.

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