The Importance of keeping Records for Probate

Research has suggested that it is becoming increasingly more difficult to track down assets when dealing with a deceased’s estate.

When someone dies, it is their executor’s responsibility to locate their assets, obtain valuations for probate and deal with the closure of accounts, sale of investments and so on. Nowadays, more and more people are managing their bank accounts and other financial assets online, meaning that in some cases there is no paper trail.

Usually when someone dies, the executor must look through the deceased’s paperwork to find out what assets and liabilities the person had. In some cases, this could be years’ worth of bank statements, letters and other documents. Although this can be a time-consuming task, it is often the best way to find out what someone’s estate consisted of.

Increasingly, organisations are becoming “paper light”, meaning that everything is dealt with online and we are not sent statements in the post. Instead, we must log in to our online accounts or emails to access the paperwork that was once sent to us by hard copy. As well as a lack of physical paperwork or bank cards, the increased use of biometric security on our phones, iPads and laptops can make it even more difficult for our details to be accessed when we die.

This can create problems when it comes to obtaining the Grant of Probate in someone’s estate, or later down the line, if an asset is left undiscovered for a long period of time after death. An executor has an on-going duty to finalise the administration of the estate so this can cause issues where the executor may have moved away or died.

Shockingly, in a recent survey by Direct Line Life Insurance, 38% of people did not know where their spouse or partner’s financial assets were held and 66% did not know where their parents held money.

So what can we do to overcome this problem?

We would suggest keeping records, or at least occasional paper statements relating to your assets and liabilities. For example, you could draw up a list of your assets to be kept alongside your Will or with your personal papers at home. If you store your Will with us, the list will be kept confidential and will only be disclosed to your executors on your death.

It is also important to have discussions with your family about your estate and your wishes prior to death. We understand that this isn’t the nicest conversation to have and it can be quite difficult, but it can be even more stressful for your family after you have died if they do not know any details of your estate. Informing organisations that someone had assets with is a vital part of the probate process and, whilst there are services available to help track down financial assets, it can significantly prolong the process of applying for probate.

If you would like any help or advice dealing with the administration of an estate, please contact a member of our Private Wealth team on 01276 686222.


This reflects the law at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought as appropriate in relation to your own particular matter before action is taken.

Charlotte Drury-Woods
Partner, Head of Private Wealth & Inheritance
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This reflects the law and market position at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought in relation to a specific matter.

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