A huge family congregating on a beach for sunset. ¬Billions of pounds worth of assets remain unclaimed as it’s taboo to talk about death: let’s start the conversation

Billions of pounds worth of assets remain unclaimed as it’s taboo to talk about death: let’s start the conversation

Vanessa Collins
3 min Read

Legal director Vanessa Collins sheds light on the often uncomfortable but essential topic of discussing death and estate management with loved ones to mitigate the risk of avoidable financial losses.

No one wants to think about death, let alone talk about it with our loved ones. It brings up uncomfortable emotions, so we tend to shy away from it. However, this lack of discussion leads to billions of pounds of assets remaining unclaimed. 

The Independent claims that a third of the UK population wants to talk to their parents about death and how to manage their estate, but haven’t because they don’t want to upset them. The same proportions of parents say they feel the same but don’t want to upset their children, despite almost four in every ten Britons saying managing their parent’s estate after their death was the biggest responsibility of their lives.

The Independent reports, as far back as 2019, that this lack of conversation has led to a huge £15bn of assets lying unclaimed in the accounts of deceased people. With more than 30 million people in the UK without a will, and the majority of the population never talking about finances with their loved ones, the money is sitting in dormant financial accounts, in limbo. 

Rather than putting off conversations about death, we need to get talking with our loved ones about our demise, the assets we own, and how we would like our estate to be distributed. 

Here are some practical tips on how to get the conversation started:

1. Establish how much you are likely to pass down (including where it’s held and how it’s invested)

From a practical perspective, writing down the total value of your assets (including property), where they are held and how they are invested in one place could be helpful. This information could be placed in a file or collated on a spreadsheet and it is essential that it’s updated on a regular basis. It’s also sensible to inform your loved ones of where the information is located, so they know where to find it when the time comes. It also could be used to open discussions about planning for the future, including care home fees and Inheritance Tax (IHT) planning.

2. Make a will

Making a will can help protect your loved ones after you die, and ensure your estate is dealt with in the way you choose. If you die without one, your estate will be distributed according to strict rules, meaning the people you care about may lose out. Alternatively, if a will has not been updated, the beneficiaries may have died or moved away, leaving an estate unclaimed. It may be wise to discuss the contents of your will with your loved ones, so they know what to expect, or at the very least, it’s location for when it is needed.

3. Plan to minimise Inheritance Tax (IHT) in your estate

Once you have a summary of assets and their value, you may wish to work out your IHT position.  You could start considering how to reduce your potential IHT liability in your lifetime, by reviewing all the different allowances and options available to you.

With the above tips in mind, it is hoped that conversations with loved ones will flow naturally. 

The private client team at Russell-Cooke can assist with all the issues discussed in this article, aiming to alleviate the taboo surrounding discussions about death and mitigate the risk of potential, avoidable financial losses for you and your loved ones.

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