Last updated on July 18th, 2022 at 01:19 pm
The executor’s duty, whether they be a lawyer or a lay person, is to find, value, and eventually distribute ALL the assets of the deceased. Why the emphasis on ALL? Because many people have things like privatisation shares, old bank or savings accounts, National Savings, ISAs, and Pensions – but no paperwork, and probably with an old address or a former name. Many of the Institutions will have been taken over and run under new names. Running a search for unclaimed assets is just a sensible precaution.
There are roughly £15 BILLION (some estimates go as high as £200 billion) in unclaimed assets in the UK, and I am sure the beneficiaries would be grateful for their share! The Taxman is not very understanding if assets are discovered after probate has been granted, resulting in an underpayment of Inheritance Tax, or even no payment when it turns out there should have been. Penalties will be levied!
A recent report showed that financial institutions have lost contact with anything up to one in five clients! The worst offender had no contact with 22% of its’ clients, believe it or not. We suspect the majority of searches for unknown assets will turn up something of value, and even if it doesn’t, the beneficiaries have the assurance that everything has been done thoroughly.
There are many types of unclaimed assets register – well over 350 databases to search. Carrying out a halfway comprehensive asset and property search the old-fashioned way can involve many hours of a solicitor’s time, and therefore easily cost the estate well over £1,000. But now a much more comprehensive digital search is available for a fraction of that, to both solicitors and lay executors. Ideally, it should be carried out long before probate is applied for (if it is needed) as some institutions are still slow to respond, so the estimated time for the full report to be completed is 40 days – though many results will come back earlier, and you will be able to see progress at any time through the portal. We certainly recommend the expertise of these professionals, but if you want to try the manual way, there are some tips on searching for assets further down.
“Lost” assets could be worth a small fortune, but may never be found without a comprehensive asset search. Once that is carried out, the executor can at least say that they have done everything that they reasonably can.
There are many different companies offering asset searches, and most only search for a particular type of asset, so we keep a watching brief on the market and refer enquirers on the firm which offers to widest search in the UK (and they in return chip in a little to help with the running costs of this site!) The one we recommend offers access to over 200 Financial institutions, covering over 350 databases. Including Banks & Building Societies, Pension, and life insurance providers, National Savings & Investments, Department of Work and Pensions and UK exclusive rights to search share registrars including, Computershare, Link & Equiniti. Some of these searches are unique.
How much does an asset search cost in the UK? The good news is that the cost is an executor’s expense, recoverable from the estate. Use the form below to get a quote.
Guarantee: If an asset is found by a financial institution up to six years after the search has been conducted an insurance-backed warranty is invoked to cover costs incurred by the executor opening the file, locating beneficiaries, and dealing with IHT issues, to the value of £10k.
To conduct the unclaimed asset search, you will need as much as possible of the following information as possible, so please do gather it together after you have sent off your initial enquiry:
- Name, including any previous names/
- Previous addresses – ask the family and check paperwork.
- Date of birth,
- Date of death.
- National Insurance number.
- Previous occupations and employers – ask the family.
- Death certificate and a
- Letter of authority needs to be signed by the executor or
But they will talk you through what is needed, once you have sent the enquiry form.
How do you find the assets of a deceased relative?
A digital asset search is designed to explore over 200 financial institutions and discover lost, dormant and active accounts which are owed to a deceased individual during estate administration, modernising traditional methods.
With just one search, the asset investigation streamlines current procedures by contacting a range of institutions including banks and building societies, pension providers, DWP searches, shares and investments. The one-stop-shop saves solicitors and executors from tediously contacting each financial institution individually.
By using an established combination of digital technology, traditional searching methods and persistence, the searching process has proven success rates.
The direct responses from the asset search are compiled into a report, which is available 24/7 and depicts where the deceased party held their accounts and policies. This report is available to view online and reveals the whereabouts and details of any outstanding accounts or policies, enabling the solicitor to retrieve any lost assets and maximise the estate value for their clients
Asset searching was engineered as an innovative technique to modernise estate administration and to assemble the assets which are owed to a deceased’s estate during probate.
In our previous blogs we have spoken about why deceased individuals may have lost assets in their accounts, but there is often confusion over the type of assets which are investigated during a search.
The intention of asset searching is to uncover the deceased’s complete financial history, including any lost, (“gone aways”, which will include many deceased accounts), dormant, (accounts in which there has been no activity for more than 6 months) or active accounts, as well as a myriad of other asset types. Therefore, a search would be ineffective if it did not aim to examine the full scope of financial institutions, to discover if they held a financial relationship with the deceased.
A successful asset searching engine will query over 200 financial institutions, (up to 350 different databases connected to each of those), for each deceased individual. This is to ensure that there has been a thorough investigation into the deceased’s estate and that no financial stone has been left unturned. The wide array of financial institutions contacted include the following:
- Building societies
- Personal pensions
- Department for Work and Pensions
- Life assurances
- National Savings & Investments
By searching the extensive list of financial institutions reached in this way, probate professionals can drastically reduce the workload they would undertake in uncovering the accounts and policies which belonged to the deceased. The resulting financial asset report will help to maximise the estate value and benefit the beneficiaries when the estate is distributed.
As such, we are seeing more and more probate professionals adopt the best practice policy of conducting a financial asset search in every probate case, as soon as they are instructed, in order to adequately assess the value of the estate and then apply for a grant of probate.
With a staggering 90% of searches uncovering a lost asset, can you afford not to conduct an asset search for your clients?
Why do an Asset Search?
Probate practitioners should be aware of the potential consequences of failing to identify all financial assets during an Estate administration.
Please note: Administrators or Executors failing to comply with the new Inheritance Tax (IHT) penalty regime risk having to pay penalties and additional tax. The firms advising them could face claims for negligence.
It is vital that practitioners properly inform Administrators or Executors on asset identification and of the potential consequences of inaccurate IHT returns.
What will the search cover?
- Over 200 financial institutions and 350 databases.
- Share registrars
- Pension providers and insurers.
- Credit Reference Agency Data.
The search for missing or unclaimed assets will take up to 40 days to complete. However, online updates are available during the search at any time. You will be notified of any further findings or positive responses are received after this period.
Asset search for living clients
Under Lasting Power of Attorney or Court of Protection Orders, they can also offer an asset search to assist deputies or attorneys locate assets for living clients.
The search draws together our resources to check for unclaimed and missing assets, and check for funds that may have been overlooked or deposited in unknown accounts.
The DIY Method to search for unclaimed assets:
Step 1: Look through their paperwork. (OK, it is obvious).
Making sure you find their purse or wallet is probably the first step, as most of us carry many cards in them, though increasingly they are in people’s phones.
There will be documents and items that identify much of what they owned. The first document you should look for is a Will or information as to the whereabouts of the Will. It may include some useful information and is of course crucial to the executors’ job – and that will be the person of persons named in the Will.
Legal documents that you might find include:
- The Will
- Trust documents
- Bank statements
- Life insurance policies
- Tax returns
Other estate planning documents that may identify property.
Remember, too, that debts are considered liabilities. As executor, you are responsible for paying all of the decedent’s outstanding debts (from the estate – not from your own pocket!)
Loans made to third parties – often family members – need to be taken into account.
You also should look for:
- Credit card statements
- Utility or other bills
- Mortgage or rent statements
- Subscription invoices
As the executor, you will be responsible for ensuring the debts are paid before distributions are made to beneficiaries and closing any accounts that remain open.
Step 2: Search their computer, emails, and phone if possible.
Keep an eye out for any documents or information related to electronically held assets. People often maintain digital assets with banks, online trading platforms, and other online subscriptions through a password manager.
They may have recorded personal ID and password information that may provide access to some of these electronic accounts. If not, you may be able to contact the relevant providers to obtain information and access appropriate assets.
With the death certificate (and copy Will, if there is one) and any other necessary information, you may be able to secure any digital assets they owned.
Step 3: Ask relatives and friends.
Even if you lived with the deceased, you probably are not aware of all of their property. It is likely that other relatives or friends may be aware of particular assets that you are not.
For example, perhaps a sibling knows of property they kept in storage, or a neighbour may know of a car the decedent was restoring or property that the decedent let someone borrow, like tools, electronics, or sporting equipment.
All assets and liabilities —no matter their value—must be identified.
Step 4: Check with their Professional Advisers.
Solicitors, Will Writers, Financial Advisers, Accountants, Insurance Brokers etc may all be aware of matters that are not obvious, especially with so much on line these days.
Step 5: Contact the employer
If employed, contact their employer to ask about any pension or retirement plans. Employers may be able to provide benefit information that the deceased did not keep. Also, if they still working at the time of their death, the employer may still have possession of some of the decedent’s personal property. Previous employers may be aware of frozen pensions.
Or go for the professional route which is very cost-effective:
What does an asset search show? In excess of 200 institutions are searched, which aims to be the most comprehensive search of UK assets available.
How do you find out someone’s assets? The search is predominantly electronic, but relies on a database of companies former trading names as so many financial institutions have changed names and ownership.
How do I find assets of a deceased person UK?
What is a missing asset search?
How do I find financial accounts of a deceased person?
How do I find a deceased relatives bank account?
How can I find out the value of a deceased person’s estate?
When a person dies, it’ll be necessary to go through probate to administer their estate and assets, but how do you know what assets they have? Here are 5 reasons why it’s worth conducting an asset search on a deceased estate during probate.
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