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Tramp's Estate 'Worth Thousands'

Treasury search for family to distribute estate


The Government is trying to trace relatives of a homeless man who died after it emerged his estate is worth thousands of pounds.

Josef Stawinoga, who lived in the middle of a ring road in Wolverhampton for 30 years, became a phenomenon on the website Facebook when a group set up in his honour attracted thousands of members.

The 87-year-old was found dead in his tent last October, and it is believed he had accumulated thousands of pounds in untouched pension money.

The Treasury is now trying to trace any family members who can prove they are related so they can claim a share of the cash. If no-one is found, the money will go back into the public purse.

It is believed that Mr Stawinoga came to Wolverhampton in the 1950s and worked at a steelworks before he lived on Ring Road St Johns.

Known locally as Fred, he could often be seen sweeping around his tent.

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Adam Draper, a Wills and Trusts expert at Irwin Mitchell Solicitor, said "This story highlights the importance of everybody making a Will. The only way in which a person is able to define who receives the benefit of their estate, following their death is by making a Will.

In the absence of a will, a person's estate will be distributed in accordance with the rules of intestacy, to beneficiaries who arise in a defined order.

Where a person dies without leaving a will, or any entitled kin, the Bona Vacantia Division of the Treasury Solicitor deals with their estate.

The literal translation of the term "Bona Vacantia" means vacant goods and is the legal name for ownerless property, which by law passes to the Crown.

The Treasury Solicitor deals with approximately 2,000 cases each year. They carry out enquiries for entitled kin as well as placing advertisements in both the national and local press and on their website www.bonavacantia.gov.uk.

In order to prove their entitlement to a share of Mr Stawinoga's estate, any prospective beneficiary will be required to provide evidence of their relationship to Mr Stawinoga by producing birth, marriage and death certificates, along with evidence of their identity.

If no beneficiaries to the estate can be located, the Treasury Solicitors will take out a Grant of Bona Vacantia and the proceeds of Mr Stawinoga's estate will pass to:

  1. The Crown; or
  2. Duchy of Lancaster; or
  3. Duchy of Cornwall (Prince Charles).