Up to £15 billion of unclaimed financial assets in the UK lie in old bank accounts, pensions, life assurance and investments - yet most are easy to reclaim.
So whether the account's yours or belonged to a deceased relative, it's worth spending 10 minutes looking. You could be in line for a windfall
What is a lost asset?
There's big money stored away waiting to be reclaimed. Some believe there's up to £850 million in old bank and building society accounts alone. There's also lost cash in Premium Bonds, pensions, investments and insurance policies - maybe up to £15 billion in total.
In fact there's so much lost cash, the Government has started to use it, setting up a 'Big Society fund' for social and community causes using cash in accounts that have been dormant for more than 15 years.
However, any cash that is yours should still be available for reclaiming. You just need to do it!
How do I know if I’ve got a lost asset?
As it's lost, you won't necessarily know that you have one.
Accounts are declared dormant after banks fail in attempts to track you down at your last known address. Investment providers will continue to administer your investment, but if you don't tell them when you move, you can't monitor how that investment's performing. There are two main triggers for financial service providers:
Returned letters and statements
If the bank, building society or investment provider sends post, and it gets returned marked with an explanation that you don't live at that address anymore, it'll mark this on your account, and try to contact you through any other details it has.
Even if mail is returned, if you're still using the account, it's likely to remain open. However, long periods of inactivity often cause accounts to be marked as dormant.
The amount of time varies depending on the bank and the product. In general, current accounts are deemed 'lost' after about 12 months of no use, while savings accounts can be left for three to five years before the bank takes action.
This means that unless you have an inkling that you had an account with a provider, it's unlikely you'll find out about any dormant accounts. However, if there's any chance cash of yours is sitting unused in a bank's coffers, have a search as there's nothing to lose.
Better still, once you find a lost account, the interest rate is likely to be rubbish, so ditch it and switch to a Top Savings Account.
You don't need to pay to reclaim...
There's absolutely no need to pay anyone to do this. A growing market of companies offer to track down your old assets for a fee. Ignore them! It can easily be done yourself without forking out the cash.
Depending on the type of product your assets are in - current accounts, savings, pensions, or various investments - a selection of organisations provide facilities to help search for unclaimed assets, many of which can be done quickly and at no cost online.
Can I reclaim assets of deceased relatives?
Yes. When using any of these searches you'll be asked whether the claim is for an account of yours, and if not, the name of the account holder is requested. At the point when the information is passed on to the account/investment provider, it will then contact you to confirm your identity, and work through ensuring the cash gets to the right person.
The process varies from case to case, but providing there was a will and there aren't any huge family rifts over who is entitled to the cash, it should go smoothly. Bigger reclaims are likely to take longer to sort out, but obviously the reward is higher too!
Ensure that a deceased relative's account is actually 'lost' before using the claim routes above. If you know the account details and which bank or provider it is with, then contact them in the first instance to track the account down.
It is extremely important that you choose a secure password for your account. We recommend using at least one number and one capital letter in your password.