Every year thousands of people die without leaving a will. Unless an entitled heir is found, any estate they leave will go to the Government. Awareness of this situation has grown in recent years thanks to the BBC TV series Heir Hunters, which follows the work of firms trying to trace beneficiaries to unclaimed estates. The programme concentrates mainly on cases in England and Wales. There are some differences in Scotland, e.g. the Crown representative in Scotland is the Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer (QLTR), but the genealogical skills and techniques involved in tracing heirs are the same.
The law of inheritance can be complicated. The Scottish Government has issued a leaflet summarising inheritance rights under the current succession law of Scotland, Rights of Succession: A brief guide to the Succession (Scotland) Act 1964: Revised 2005, which can be found online by following the link from the title above. In cases where there are no surviving relatives from the immediate family of the deceased, aunts and uncles, and first cousins, can be entitled. Unlike in England, it is possible for second cousins to inherit, if there are no closer relatives. Only blood relatives can claim, not persons related only by marriage.
Thistle Heritage Services is a member of the Heir Hunters Association, an organisation which provides advice and support for firms and individuals trying to ensure that beneficiaries receive the assets to which they are entitled. All potential beneficiaries, not just one individual, need to be identified in order for the share of the estate due to each individual can be determined. This is where family history and relative tracing skills and experience are important. If you have reason to believe that you may be entitled to a share of the estate of someone who died without leaving a will, Thistle Heritage Services can help provide the evidence you need to obtain the mandatory Bond of Caution from an insurance company, and to apply to the Commissary Department of the Sheriff Court in the area in which the person lived for appointment as executor-dative and for Confirmation of the estate. The next step is to forward the evidence of entitlement to The Queen's and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer Office in Edinburgh. If you have received a communication from Thistle Heritage Services, it is because research already undertaken indicates that you may be an entitled relative. Any beneficiary who enlists the help of Thistle Heritage Services in making a claim will face no charges until the claim is successful, and will receive a family tree as part of the package.