Death with no next of kin | Oxfordshire County Council

Death with no next of kin

What are the council’s responsibilities in arranging a funeral and dealing with the estate?

Who takes responsibility for funerals and the individual’s estate when someone dies and there is no known next of kin?

Where the death occurred Responsible
In a registered residential or care home Oxfordshire County Council
Anywhere else and Oxfordshire County Council is managing their financial affairs Oxfordshire County Council
Any other circumstances The relevant District Council

Where we are responsible, we will try to trace relatives using a specialist company

Estate Research
57a Library Street
WIGAN
WN1 1NU
Tel: 01942 826500

If we cannot trace any relatives, details of the case are passed to the Treasury Solicitor.

List of cases sent to Treasury Solicitor (pdf format, 15KB)

Freedom of Information requests

Oxfordshire County Council receives many requests under the Freedom of Information Act for information relating to the deaths of people who have no next of kin.

We have sought advice from the Treasury Solicitor regarding the disclosure of certain requested information. It is the view of this council that some of the requested information is not available as it is covered by one of the exemptions within the Freedom of information Act.

Information which we will disclose: Information which we will not disclose:
  • Surname of deceased
  • First name(s)
  • Date of death
  • Marital status
  • Last known address – where this was a residential or care home
  • Date details were sent to the Treasury Solicitor
  • Maiden name of deceased
  • Date of birth
  • Last known address – where this is not a residential or care home
  • Value of an estate

The main exemption that the council believes is relevant is Section 31.1(a) of the Act which states that information is exempt if its release would, or would be likely to, prejudice the prevention or detection of crime.

It is the position of the council that providing sufficient information around the identity of a deceased person where there is no next of kin would be likely to prejudice  the prevention of crime in that it would make it easier to perpetrate the crime of identity fraud, through the stealing of the identity of the deceased person. For this reason the council regards details such as dates of birth and maiden names as particularly sensitive as they are often used to support the identity of an individual or protect security passwords.

The council also believes that disclosing the last known address (where this is a private address) would also be likely to prejudice the prevention of crime due to the risk of theft and/or trespass from an empty property.

It is also the position of the council that disclosing the value of an estate prior to passing the information on to the Treasury Solicitor is also likely to prejudice the prevention of crime. Knowledge of the size of the estate would, or would be likely to, facilitate the crime of fraud through highlighting those high value estates where the benefit of a successful fraud outweighs the risks of detection.

The exemption provided under Section 31.1(a) of the Act is qualified, which means that it is subject to the public interest test. In reaching the decision to use Section 31.1(a) the council has therefore considered whether the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in withholding it.

Public Interest Test – For Disclosure: Public Interest Test – Against Disclosure:
  • Disclosure of the data could potentially raise awareness of the general issue, as well as specific cases, increasing the number of cases where genuine beneficiaries can be identified
  • Disclosure of the data will enable scrutiny of the council’s performance in administering estates in such cases, provide transparency to ensure that cases are passed on to the Treasury solicitor and that this happens in a timely manner
  • Disclosure of the data supports the general public interest in the transparency, accountability and general understanding of the delivery of public services
  • Disclosure of the data could potentially facilitate the disposal of the estate
  • Disclosure of the value of individual estates would raise public awareness of the issue regarding unclaimed estates and help promote the wider completion of wills and the bequest of money to popular causes.

 

It is the council’s position that the public interest as outlined above can be met through the information that is available on this webpage.

 

  • The council does not recognise any specific public interest in the disclosure of the date of birth and maiden name of deceased individuals with no known next of kin
  • Disclosure of the exempted data will make it easier for the perpetration of criminal activities against the general public interest in a crime free society, as well as the public concern regarding the efficient use of police resources. Specifically, the theft of the identity of an individual through use of the disclosed data allows those intent on criminal activity the freedom to move around the country and instigate numerous criminal acts. The resources to resolve any criminal activity and track down the perpetrator will either need to be diverted away from other police activity, or will increase the overall cost to the public purse.

 

Therefore, weighing up the “Fors” and “Againsts” as above, the council considers that the public interest in maintaining the exemption on the data specified above outweighs the public interest in disclosing it.

Last reviewed
27 September 2016
PrintPrint Give us feedback on this pageFeedback form, opens in new window.
Access key details Skip to main content Home News Sitemap Search Website help Complaints Terms and conditions Website feedback