By Emma Fuller
Many people now store their documents on their computers and no longer have paper bank statements. This trend has developed over several years now and means that our approach to dealing with probate has to evolve to keep up with these changes.
In days gone by, many people would store all of their insurance documents, share certificates and paperwork together. Nowadays, there is often some paperwork but it is difficult to tell whether this shows the full picture of their financial affairs. If there is a computer in the home then the chances are that there will be some online financial affair.
There are sometimes legal and financial requirements for replacing documents which might have gone astray. Gathering relevant life policies; pension fund and investment details together is often done at the same time that a Will is prepared, but there are still the years afterwards where new investments may be made and policies taken out.
We often find ourselves dealing with estates of individuals who had lost share certificates during their lifetime, or where the relatives dealing with the probate had no idea of the financial affairs of the estate.
To avoid problems you can ensure that financial affairs are kept in order, even attaching a list of computer passwords to your Will for safekeeping. Executors can obtain help from various sources in chasing up accounts and policies which they think may exist but it can be difficult to know where to look.
At Edward Hands & Lewis, we offer an asset search service which searches against various databases to identify shares and accounts that are held in the estate. This locates the most typical “lost” assets such as shares (especially those that have been derived from the utility shares or building society issues in years gone by, that people may have acquired without realising). If you are dealing with an estate and don’t know quite where to start, please give us a call and we would be happy to help. In our experience these usually locate assets far in excess of the cost of the search, and give peace of mind that you haven’t missed something, particularly important as Executors can be personally liable for an estate.