This research should serve as a good reminder to everyone that it is important that your family and professional advisors know what funds you have in what accounts. Should the unthinkable happen tomorrow, would your executors know what monies they must account for, and possibly pay tax on?
Lack of certainty can have a number of impacts. For one thing, executors are under a duty to account to HMRC for tax due to the date of death and during the administration period. However, should further funds come to light at a later date this will drag out the administration process. In addition, small sums held in bank accounts can be applied towards the estate's inheritance tax; banks will often release small sums without requiring a grant of probate which, in a catch-22 scenario, the Probate Registry will not release until inheritance tax has been paid.
These undiscovered sums are also monies that should be passed to the relevant beneficiaries under the deceased's Will, or according to the intestacy rules if the deceased died without a Will. If those funds are substantial, they may represent a valuable benefit to that recipient rather than languishing in an account.
Clients should make the lives of their executors and professional advisors as straightforward as possible and provide them with a schedule of their assets, including details such as the names of third party account holders and any relevant account numbers. As and when these details change it can be very useful to provide an updated schedule, for example at an annual estate planning meeting.
New research shown exclusively to The Independent suggests a huge £15bn of assets are lying unclaimed in the accounts of the deceased.