WILLS

REPORTER: GEORGIA MAIN

Across Australia, there is $500 million in unclaimed estates.

"People are leaving behind bank accounts, shares, property -- it could be anything like cars to diamond rings to gold bullion", said Stewart McLeod from The State Trustees.

When there's no will, it's up to The State Trustees to locate the next of kin. "There are some cases where you need to have the instincts of a private detective, but we also need to be like a priest at confession and not tell secrets to other branches of the family", Stewart said.

As a genealogist, Kath Ensor has spent 15 years tracking down lost relatives. Her investigations have taken her as far as Africa, uncovering plenty of family secrets along the way. "The gentleman had died here owning this large block of land -- he had no children, wasn't married, he had no wife. I traced his father back to England and with documents and census material it determined that his father had been a bigamist -- he had two families. Coincidentally the two families migrated to Australia", Kath said.

Both families were living 60ks apart and had no idea each other existed. Finally Kath located nieces and nephews who will soon inherit the Melbourne estate -- worth more than one million dollars.

Case closed, but Kath has another 80 to solve. A house in Moorabbin, in Melbourne's south east, may not look like much, but it's part of a one-million dollar estate -- Kath's trying to locate the owner's relatives.

Sometimes investigations cross international borders. A Brighton mansion was one of four properties worth a million dollars, left by eccentric recluse Jane Kelly. Her estate was only recently split between her three sons, 14 years after their mother's death.

What made it so difficult was that Jane was also known as Pamela Elizabeth as well as 10 other aliases. "She had been married multiple times and she had children overseas in South Africa. There, we got DNA and handwriting evidence to prove their connection to the deceased", Stewart said.

While technology has helped State Trustees go to extraordinary lengths to find relatives, they never expected to uncover this - "Someone had passed away in Victoria and at the time had advised the family and all the friends that his spouse had run off. What had actually happened was that she had been killed and buried in the backyard. We advertised across Australia to try and find out if she had moved to another state and in the end a former neighbour stepped forward and they helped to solved the case", he added.

Many people, with whom Stewart and his team deal, have never met the relative who has left them a fortune. "When you think about it, you spend your entire life collecting these assets and you really want to make sure they

go to people you love and trust. If you don't leave a will, you don't leave any instructions as to what to do after that that moment of death", Stewart said.

If you believe you may be a beneficiary of an estate, you can contact the Unclaimed Monies government department in your state:

National:

ASIC [Australian Securities & Investments Commission] has a searchable database of unclaimed monies called Fido.

www.asic.gov.au/fido/fido.nsf

ACT:

Public Trustee for the Australian Capital Territory

www.publictrustee.act.gov.au/unclaimed/index.html

New South Wales:

NSW Office of State Revenue

www.osr.nsw.gov.au/benefits/ucm/

Queensland:

Public Trustee of Queensland

www.pt.qld.gov.au/services/unclaimed/index.asp

South Australia:

Details of unclaimed monies are published in the South Australian Government's official Gazette.

www.governmentgazette.sa.gov.au/search/default.htm

Tasmania:

Tasmania does not have a searchable database, so Unclaimed Monies enquiries are best sent to the Department of Treasury and Finance.

The Secretary

Department of Treasury and Finance

GPO Box 147

HOBART Tas 7001

Or, unclaimed.money@treasury.tas.gov.au

Victoria:

State Revenue Office

www.sro.vic.gov.au

Western Australia:

The Department of Treasury and Finance

www.dtf.wa.gov.au/cms/content.aspx?id=642