Government looking for rightful heirs to 160 unclaimed Herts inheritances
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More than 150 people have died in Hertfordshire, leaving behind potential fortunes which remain unclaimed.
In three cases, in St Albans and Stevenage, less than 12 weeks remain for long-lost relatives to come forward and stake their claim.
One case will time out in just over seven weeks.
Nina Theresa Spaggiari died on August 28, 1991, in Stevenage.
Born in France in February 1898, she married her husband Giovanni Spaggiari – also known as John – in Holborn in March 1921.
He died in Chelsea in 1962. No other relatives of Mrs Spaggiari have been found.
If her next of kin is not traced quickly, her estate will be seized by the Crown.
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Philip Turvey is an “heir hunter”.
His company, Anglia Research, searches for long-lost relatives of those who have died without a will, then helps them claim the estates in return for a commission.
They trace around 500 heirs per year through genealogy. Some estates, he said, turn out to be worth “many millions”.
But the heir hunters are working against the clock.
“The government department will accept a claim from any relative who can prove that they have an entitlement for up to 12 years from the date of death, and pay interest,” said Mr Turvey.
“They will accept claims up to 30 years from the date of death, but will not pay interest."
But once those 30 years are up, the Crown will keep the estate for itself.
Approximately 160 people are known to have died in Hertfordshire, leaving behind unclaimed estates.
There are nine in St Albans, 20 in Stevenage, 30 in Watford and 14 in Welwyn Hatfield.
Other areas, like Hitchin, Royston and Bishops Stortford, have one each.
Eight out of the nine St Albans cases were registered in the 1990s.
The timer on five of them will run out within the next year – and on two of those, in just over two months.
Stefan Lemiszewski died on September 17, 1991. The government was notified by the North West Herts Health Authority.
All the government knows is that he was born in Poland in December 1910 and died, aged 81, a bachelor.
Six days after Mr Lemiszewski’s death, another St Albans resident died, leaving no easily identifiable family.
Rose Rockall was born in March 1899 and never married. Her death was registered by Hill End Hospital on September 23, 1991.
The day after that – September 24 – Cyril Stevens died in Hatfield, aged 79.
Born in Steyning, Sussex, in 1911, he married his wife Gilda on an unknown date – but she died in Edmonton, Middlesex, four days before Christmas, 1952.
Government records state that he “may have blood relatives in South Africa” - but if so, they must be found in the next 11 weeks.
Other cases are far more recent.
Brian Michael Breen died in January this year in Stevenage, aged 71. His wife Carole pre-deceased him.
Julie Eva Welch died in St Albans in February. All the authorities know about her is that she was born in 1936 in London.
Why are they unclaimed?
The first reason estates go unclaimed, said Mr Turvey, is that people fail to leave a will.
“Some people don’t like contemplating their possible demise, so don’t want to address the issue,” he explained.
“Some people might not think they have anything to leave, or anyone to leave it with. Maybe they don’t realise the property they bought 50 or 60 years ago is now worth a significant sum.”
Most people without wills have family to take care of their affairs.
The heir hunters step in when there is no will and no close family.
“Perhaps they are the last of their generation still alive,” said Mr Turvey. “If they didn’t marry or have children, their next of kin may be cousins. The last time they may have seen their cousins was when they were children.”
Firms like Anglia Research typically start with the deceased and then look for heirs, rather than helping individuals look for possible inheritances.
“That would be like searching for a needle in a haystack,” he said – although they will represent individuals who come to them with a “strong connection” to a known case.
To view the register of unclaimed estates, visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistical-data-sets/unclaimed-estates-list