Hide and seek: Record keeping and probate

 30 May 2022
Hide and seek: Record keeping and probate

Have you made or changed your will recently? If you have, you’ve probably spent considerable time making sure everyone is fairly provided for. You’ve probably worked out how much you have to pass on, the value of your assets, and other details too.

The question is: where is that information kept?

And more importantly, can your executors access it easily?

Keeping accurate and up to date records of your finances isn’t just for you and the tax man. It is also of great benefit for the person who has to sort out all your finances after your death, namely your executor.

Executors and probate

Before anyone can receive a single penny from your estate, your executor will probably need to apply for probate. (Some estates are exempt, such as those with only joint assess or savings.)

As the Government website states, in England and Wales:

“Probate is the legal right to deal with someone’s property, money and possessions (their ‘estate’) when they die. You should not make any financial plans or put property on the market until you’ve got probate.”

And

As part of applying for probate, you need to find out if there’s any Inheritance Tax to pay. To find this out, you need to value the money, property and possessions (‘estate’) of the person who’s died.”

Financial records your executor will need

In order to value your estate, your executor will need to account for all your:

  • Savings
  • Investments including shares, ISAs and assets in a trust
  • Premium Bonds
  • Outstanding wages
  • Pensions
  • Mortgages
  • Loans including credit cards
  • Outstanding bills such as utilities
  • Life insurance and mortgage protection plans
  • Pre-paid funeral plans
  • Property and land
  • Valuable assets such as art, antiques, cars, boats, etc
  • Cryptocurrency and NFTs
  • Trust funds

Other records your executor will need

Your executors will also need to know the location of key information and documents such as:

  • Bank account details and online passwords if applicable
  • Utility providers including mobile phone
  • Pension provider
  • Fund manager/s
  • House deeds (if not mortgaged)
  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Passport and driver’s licence
  • Medical card / NHS number
  • Social media accounts and passwords

If you can’t easily lay your hands on information for all of these, imagine how difficult it could be for your executor/s!

I’m dead. Now what?

We’ve produced a simple book, “I’m dead. Now what?” where you can note down all this information, ready for when your executor/s needs it. Just make sure you tell them where to find it!

Remember that this document will need updating as your circumstances change.

Records for Power of Attorney

If you have drawn up Power of Attorney arrangements, then your attorney is also going to need to know much of the information above. It’ll help them administer your estate, including paying your bills, while you are incapacitated.

Keeping track of gifts

It’s important to keep track of gifts made during your lifetime to family and friends. There is a limit of how much of the value of your estate you can give away before there are tax implications. The timing of gifts is also important, as those made within 7 years of your death need to be accounted for. For more details, see or call us to discuss.

No paper trail

As much of modern life shifts online, the amount of paperwork you hold on file will inevitably decrease. Accessing online accounts can be very difficult for executors, especially if your account details and passwords are kept on a device secured by biometric security such as laptop Touch ID or phone facial recognition.

At Panthera Estate Planning, we recommend you keep a record of account details and download an annual statement, so there is something in writing. If you have security concerns, these details can be kept in a sealed envelope by your solicitors or bank alongside your physical signed will. (Again, remember to tell your executors where the will is kept!)

How much do you know?

According to a survey by Direct Line Life Insurance:

  • 38% of people don’t know where their partner’s financial assets are held
  • 66% had no idea where their parents’ money was held

If this applies to you, now is the time to take action. Make sure you know what accounts they hold, where and how to access them if required.

Equally, if a loved one is losing capacity (or enthusiasm!) to keep records, now is the time to help them get their records in order and note down important information.

All change

As a recent client discovered, the firm of solicitors who kept their father’s will had gone out of business. Luckily, a little bit of internet research revealed that, as per standard practice, the will was now stored with a different firm of solicitors.

Over time, assets can also change location or administration, as companies are taken over and shares reassigned. (For more information give us a call.)

Remember that as your circumstances change, so will your estate records. Keeping your records up to date will save your executor time and trouble, and avoid unnecessary delay at a time when your family is hurting most.

How Panthera Estate Planning can help

If you’d like our help, we can help you assess the value and location of your estate assets. We’ll work with you to identify and take note of your current accounts and assets, and advise on how to locate other assets you may have lost track of.

We’ll also help you compile a list of valuable collections and objects that would be included in the value of your estate, as well as those which you don’t need to account for, but your executors need to know about.

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During our initial discussion Panthera (Paul) fully explained the Will making process. We were made aware that our assets could be exposed to various risks such as Care Costs. Panthera (Paul) advised on how we could protect these assets by setting up Family Trusts. Having decided to go down this route Panthera (Paul) provided all the legal documentation in a timely manner despite having to work within the constraints of Covid-19 restrictions.

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