Nearly all of us have valuables and important documents hidden away somewhere in the house or even garden. Some intriguing statistics from Saga Legal Services have shown that the hiding places chosen by the over 50s include underwater (in the garden pond), behind mirrors and in hollowed out table legs. Other more popular hiding places include everyday receptacles such as biscuit tins, with 20 per cent of us keeping our jewellery hidden in a drawer.
Hiding your valuables
Choosing a hiding place in the hope that your valuables won’t be found by burglars is common, but it does raise the question of whether your executors will be able to find the documents/items after your death. Clearly when choosing a place to secure your valuables you need to take into account any specifications in your insurance policies, it is not unusual that you will be required to keep valuable items in a safe or similar.
It is estimated that there are up to £15 billion of unclaimed financial assets in the UK, and it’s not uncommon for a probate to be delayed while the executors search for the will. There is also a risk that an out of date will may be admitted to probate if a later will has been hidden away so well it is never found.
Tony Hall, Private Client Partner at Mills & Reeve has the following story from his own experience:
“Many years ago, as a junior solicitor in Leeds, I was sent out to a house where an older client had died. It was just before Christmas and my task was to secure the property and remove anything of value. Apart from a wardrobe of pickled fruit dating back to WW2, I found a properly executed handwritten will in a biscuit tin that revoked the one we had in the office and provided for the entire estate (which turned out to be worth about £500,000) to go to some distant relatives.
It is important to consider whether your executors know:
Where your original will is kept, and will they know whether an earlier will has been revoked?
Where other important documents are, for example property deeds and Expressions of Wishes. Will they be aware if these documents are being stored with a bank or solicitor, and if so which bank/law firm?
Where to find details of accounts (including online accounts), investments, insurance policies, prepaid funeral plans, passwords and other assets?
Also important are the thoughts and wishes that we may have kept to ourselves, for example wishes regarding the care and upkeep of pets and funeral arrangements.
Many of the issues raised in this article apply when someone has lost mental capacity, when attorneys need to be able to locate any Enduring or Lasting Powers of Attorney. It is important to let attorneys and/or significant others know your wishes regarding the type of care you would like to receive, where you would prefer to live, end of life matters and other important personal issues, in case you ever become unable to express those wishes for yourself.
Guest article written by Caroline Pinney, Senior Associate at Mills & Reeve LLP.
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This article has been compiled using information available to us up to 15/01/21.