Brits' financial assets 'not in order'

May 13, 2010, 7:40 PM GMT+0

The British public is at risk of losing out on billions of pounds because people are failing to keep their financial assets in order, research undertaken on behalf of Grayling shows.

A staggering 73% of Britons do not have a will that clearly documents all of their financial assets. This not only often makes it harder to determine who should inherit from someone’s estate, but also makes it difficult to identify the exact nature and extent of a person’s financial assets. This is especially worrying given that many spouses or close family members report facing difficulty in finding out about the existence of their loved ones’ financial assets. Of the 2,384 Britons asked to rate how easy it would be for their spouse or close relatives to uncover the existence of all their financial assets, including life policies and pension plans from past employment, on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being ‘Not at all easy’ and 5 being ‘Extremely easy’) a worrying 17% rate 1-2. Only 21% say it would be ‘extremely easy’ for a relative to uncover their financial assets in the event of their death.

In light of government concern that financial assets (e.g. pension plans, life policies and bank accounts) are not always identified when people die and that the value of unclaimed financial assets may exceed £15 billion, it is perhaps unsurprising that as much as 39% say that if a search service was available that would assist an executor to identify such assets, they would assent to such a search being undertaken on their behalf.

While people do seem to be willing to pay for such a search, it seems they are not always prepared to pay an especially large sum for this potentially useful service. 12% said they would not be prepared to pay anything, with the majority preferring to pay between £1 and £200. 39% say they would be prepared to spend £1 to £100, while 19% are willing to pay between £101 and £200 for a search. There is little support for a charge of over £200. Only eight percent would pay between £201 and £500, while just one percent is willing to spend more than £500.

As well as being at risk of losing out on financial assets as a beneficiary of a will, it appears the public may also be in danger of mislaying important information regarding their own financial assets while still alive. When asked to rate how well they maintain their personal financial records (e.g. to what extent they have records of the details of pension(s), bank account(s), share(s) etc. filed and/or clearly labelled) on a scale of 1 to 5, (with 1 being ‘not at all’ and 5 being ‘in perfect order’) only 20% say their financial records are in perfect order. A small but worrying four percent claimed their finances were ‘not at all’ in order, while ten percent rated their situation at a still-disorganised rating of 2.

With the value of unclaimed financial assets thought to be at high levels by the government, there seems to be much incentive for people to improve the situation regarding their own personal finances, and to ensure that their financial assets are in order. While many could help themselves by maintaining their own financial records, an effective and efficient search service could also prove popular as a helpful tool to improve the situation.

Survey details and full results