Probate professionals have a number of important obligations to fulfil whether they are acting as an executor or are assisting the personal representatives. One vital aspect is to identify any assets that are in the name of the deceased and so need to be considered, as part of the deceased’s overall estate.
When administering an estate, we often see that cases typically fall into two differing camps: the first are those individuals who have every asset and account fully documented, perhaps as part of an official will. Then, there are those who haven’t gathered any financial affairs into any orderly system. The latter often provides a great deal of angst to those left behind, who may feel daunted by the prospect of hunting for related paperwork, in order to try and uncover clues that uncover the full picture of their loved ones’ financial affairs.
In fact, in a recent poll by YouGov, it found that almost half of UK adults said that they would not know how to find the details of a loved one’s total financial assets upon their death.
Research from Farewill has also reported that more than 30 million UK citizens do not have an active will in place. And, then when you start looking at the potential financial figures involved, lost or dormant accounts are far more common than you would think. It has been said that over £15bn of unclaimed financial assets are held in various old bank accounts, pensions, life assurance and investments.
Since 2011, the UK’s 30 largest banks and building societies have been voluntarily transferring money left in dormant accounts to charity and other notable causes. Recent figures from the Independent Commission on Dormant Assets said that in the time this has been in place, over £600m has been redistributed to charitable causes.
In addition, the Independent Commission has since estimated that there may be a further £2bn sitting unclaimed in dormant insurance policies or from proceeds of sales of shares or unit trusts in stockbroker or investment accounts.
So what is the answer? The use of an asset reunification service would benefit anyone who believes they may be entitled to a share of the money, yet has been unable to locate any related documentation or perhaps believes a deceased loved one may have been eligible.
The legal profession is in the best position to take advantage of asset reunification services to connect unclaimed assets to individuals after a family member has passed away and may not have updated the most recent asset information in their will.
At the end of the day, a ‘lost’ asset can occur for a number of reasons, such as a marriage breakdown, changed circumstances, a family member not disclosing details of the asset, or perhaps a house move where the financial institution in question wasn’t notified of such changes.
The mystery of unclaimed assets can however be quickly rectified via one single search that probate professionals can undertake for their clients when administering an estate. Such asset reunification searches, such as Landmark’s Financial Asset Search, quickly help to identify potentially dormant, unknown or lost financial assets via one, online search service. This includes everything from pensions, life policies or unit trusts through to bank accounts, savings or shares.
A tracing service such as this centralises the arduous task of locating current, lost or forgotten financial assets by enabling probate lawyers to input the person’s information just once. Searches are then underway at multiple financial institutions from one single order. This can include identifying personal pension plans, life policies, occupational pension accounts, unit trusts, investment trusts, investment bonds, National Savings & Investments, Building Societies and Banks dormant accounts and even FTSE100 shares. As an additional advantage, registered wills are also discovered via the officially-recognised national wills register.
Ultimately, in today’s world, where people don’t necessarily keep paper records of their financial affairs, it’s important to be able to offer clients the support in uncovering all credit and debt against the deceased person in question; in doing so it removes the need for time-consuming manual investigations.
An automated search provides confidence to legal professionals and private client customers that the most thorough due diligence has taken place to support the process of administering a deceased person’s estate.
Chris Loaring, Managing Director, Landmark Legal
Caroline Alexander, Senior Associate (FCILEx), Michelmores LLP has been using LandmarkFAS service for many years, “The fact that LandmarkFAS now includes details on active and inactive assets and debts is transformative for legal professionals. It gives me confidence that I have full coverage regarding the deceased’s financial affairs, without having to sift through mountains of paperwork. It covers everything we need to progress with probate and, in my view, is a critical service that I wouldn’t be without.”