Flagging It Up! Making your assets traceable

It is unprecedented; never before has the public taken to bearing the Union Flag with such nationalistic fervour. One can hardly nip to Tesco without seeing it fluttering from a car window or bunting festooning cafes or supermarket shelves laden with mugs bearing the familiar red, white and blue. The recent coverage of the 2012 Olympic torch being feted throughout the country’s byways, the support of Team GB and, further still, Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee all have brought many patriotic images to the fore.

The quaint, if grainy, archive clips of the 1948 London Olympics and 1952 coronation are reflective of simpler, less cluttered, less complicated times. Halcyon days they may seem but, since then, our living standards have improved immeasurably and even in today’s double-dip recession we are told we have more disposable income than we could have dreamt of 60 years ago. Extra money can produce extra savings and the pressure to find adequate returns is a constant source of concern particularly for pensioners.

The days of Captain Mainwaring of Walmington on Sea guarding our one bank account are no more. Today, we scour the Sunday broadsheets for Best Interest Rates payable on deposits, plough money into tax saving ISAs, play with ERNIE, not to mention fraternizing with the FTSE. We hunt on the internet for the best returns, and some of us may even receive weekly warning bulletins from money experts advising us as to where we should all be heading for premium rates. Indeed, after the recent Nat West and Barclays debacles we are actively encouraged to abscond, en masse, to greener pastures. So we swap bank accounts like we change hairstyles as we are enticed into forming liaisons with new banks just to keep ahead of the rates.

Technology brings its own issues. It may well facilitate speed, but it comes at a price. We can open accounts almost anywhere, at the click of a button, with less hassle than ever before enabling us to scatter our funds liberally throughout an array of banks and building societies with ease. For those who are not IT savvy there are postal accounts, where you never need meet another living soul during the entire process of opening, utilizing and closing the account. In an effort to go green and save rain forests, we are bombarded with requests for paperless accounts saving the banks a small fortune but leaving our accounts that bit less tangible.

The changes are not just surrounding banking; the working structure of the nation has changed too. Consider our parents’ generation, often in a profession with a single employer for their entire working lives producing most likely, a single pension. Today, many choose to take out second and third pensions to top up employers’ poor performing policies and then once retired, dabble in annuities.

Pity then, an executor tasked with tracking the fiscal meanderings of a Will maker. Multiply that challenge tenfold if he or she lived alone, and with the onus being on executors to ensure all assets are accounted for prior to applying for probate, it can be a formidable task.

The ITV programme “Missing Millions” highlighted how accounts and the holder can part company and a recent study, conducted by YouGov, suggests £15 billion of assets remain unclaimed, because next of kin cannot locate, or are unaware of, their loved ones policies and accounts. So, whilst we squirrel our savings away throughout our lives we are seemingly happy for tens of thousands of pounds to go adrift due to poor administration after death. But having worked all our lives to accrue a pot, is it not fitting that our beneficiaries receive all that we leave behind?

Few Wills chart the individual assets of the Will maker, so what can any of us do to flag up our assets to assist our executors and loved ones? Here are a few simple suggestions to get you started:

Purchase an A4 document box; in it, place:

  1. Your Will and your Letter of Wishes

  2. Type up a list with details of all your assets. Note just the branch and the type of account. Ensure you include internet banking and postal accounts. Review it periodically.

  3. If you have a nagging feeling you have misplaced an account, visit MY LOST ACCOUNT a free service which can assist in tracking down lost accounts and investments (www.mylostaccount.org.uk or Tel: 020 7216 8909 )

  4. Write the name and contact details of anyone who may have knowledge of your financial dealings (accountant, stock broker, financial advisor)

  5. Type up a list of your liabilities. To whom do you owe money?

  6. Don’t go paperless – it can mean an account is difficult to trace if, for any reason, you have failed to list the account as above.

  7. Place the original paperwork for endowment, life insurance, annuities and assurance policies in the box. Ensure that the amount which is payable on death is obvious for the executors so they can, if necessary, keep tabs on the insurer.

  8. Place all pension policies here too. If in doubt about your own pension entitlements, visit the free service PENSION TRACING. (www.direct.gov.uk Type ‘Pension Tracing’ into the search box)

  9. If you are a tax payer, place a tax return there too. It will contain vital information.

  10. If you have any high value items, place receipts or valuations in the box. The sum value of these must be included when valuing your estate.

Clearly, it is important to maintain security at all times and just as one wouldn’t leave a Will or bank statements on open view, nor would one leave this information lying around for open consumption. If you have concerns, purchase a small safe, store all sensitive information therein and leave the access code with your solicitor or with a trusted executor.

We may well live in patriotic times and may even be happy to wave the odd Union flag, but few would choose to inflict their offspring with the long term consequences of a tattoo of the same. It is even more unthinkable that anyone would allow the legacy from untraced accounts to circumvent their nearest and dearest in preference to HM Treasury.

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