When taking care of an elderly relative, one question that occurs to many people is what correspondence they should retain. Paperwork can mount up quickly and can make dealing with the person’s estate when they die a long and arduous process. On the other hand, binning letters and statements carries the risk of identity theft. So what should be done?
Firstly, any correspondence that is thrown away should be shredded – otherwise it could be used for fraudulent purposes. For example, a fraudster could use the details in the correspondence apply for credit in the name of the elderly or deceased person. However, careful consideration should be given as to what is shredded – as this paperwork could be needed when administering the person’s estate on their death. Insurance policies, share certificates and even the names/addresses of institutions who are writing to the elderly person (as they may hold an account with that institution) are all valuable and should be retained for future use.
It is also worth helping the elderly person to register their details with CIFAS which costs £20 for two years. Once the person is on the CIFAS database, a flag is placed alongside their name and personal details. Those institutions who are signed up as members of the database then know that the person is at risk and will take extra steps to protect them, preventing fraudsters from using their details to apply for products and services. The downside is that when the person themselves wants to sign up for a financial product, there will be a few extra checks – but this is worth it for the peace of mind.
If the elderly person struggles to manage their finances themselves, it is worth discussing the possibility of making a Lasting Power of Attorney with them. Once registered, this allows you to assist with their finances even though they still have mental capacity – and should they lose mental capacity in the future, you can continue to use the document to manage their financial affairs.
When a person dies, the financial institutions they held an account with are informed and at this point their accounts will be frozen. Some of the letters sent out at this point are speculative – the Executors may see that the elderly person has had correspondence with a bank but may not know if an account exists (particularly since many encourage customers to go ‘paperless’). This is why it is important not to routinely bin every piece of correspondence – accounts can be overlooked this way.
Once all of the person’s accounts and investments have been identified, the Executors will then apply for probate (or letters of administration if the person did not make a Will). These documents – confirm that the Executors have the right to deal with the person’s assets and enable them to transfer the assets to a special Executors’ account. From this point, any information previously obtained by fraudsters about the person’s bank account will be useless, because the Executor’s account has a different sort code and account number. However, such information could still be used to obtain financial products fraudulently, which is why shredding confidential paperwork is so important.
If the value of the person’s assets is quite small, a grant of probate may not be necessary – but the Executors will still need to show proof of identity before they are given access to any money held in accounts.
If you are the executor of a Will and need help with probate in Southport, contact us on 01704 532890 or complete the free enquiry form below.