Solicitors’ checklist aims to stop families’ money joining the UK’s lost £billions
A checklist to help people record their assets before they become too ill to do so has been created by private client solicitors in light of billions of pounds left unclaimed with UK financial institutions.
The checklist, drawn up by family solicitors at North and East Yorkshire law firm, Harrowells, York, is being offered to all those who contact the firm for advice on drawing up a will, or appointing a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), to ensure their assets are easily traced and used in line with their bequests.
Details, including national insurance numbers, tax references, savings accounts, pensions, life insurance, share certificates, properties, accountants, independent financial advisers, previous wills, and even utility company details, can be recorded on the checklist which Harrowells says can be copied and given to trusted family members to be filed away securely. Users can also add details of online accounts that Harrowells says can otherwise easily be overlooked.
The firm has also launched a plastic card – similar to a credit or retail loyalty card – that can be kept in a person’s wallet to say where their important legal documents are held, so they can be found quickly when the need arises.
Creation of the checklist and card scheme follows news that the government is seizing up to £330m from dormant bank and building society accounts – those left untouched for at least 15 years – to tackle homelessness and help disadvantaged young people. Most of the accounts are said to hold around £100 or less.
A partner in Harrowells private client department, Hudda Morgan, says: “A consequence of people living longer, as many once-fatal illnesses can now be cured, is that more of us risk losing mental capacity or living with Alzheimer’s Disease towards the end of our lives.
“Often it can be such a gradual decline, that it is difficult for family or friends to know when to offer assistance. It often takes a crisis before people feel they can offer help, or for the person to want to accept it. Sadly, it can then already be too late for them to remember clearly what assets they have and where their important papers are held.
“We are seeing an increasing number of cases where executors, family and friends have a good idea that a deceased’s assets exist but are unable to find share certificates, wills, bank details and life insurance policies which is adding to their trauma at an already difficult time and means many assets are unclaimed.”
According to the UK Unclaimed Assets Register, insurance companies currently hold around £1bn in assets that belong to policyholders who have died or disappeared, and financial institutions hold £5bn.
Hudda Morgan adds: “While seeing the benefits of freezing up funds which would otherwise be unused, it would be far better for families if people did not lose track of their assets in the first place and that they could be used in accordance with their wishes.”
Harrowells Solicitors, which offers a wide range of private and commercial legal services, including specialist legal advice relating to health and welfare for older people and their families, has three offices in York and others in Thirsk, Easingwold and Pocklington.