During the ‘lockdown’ period, we have learned to rely on technology to keep us connected with our loved ones, be it over FaceTime, Zoom, or similar. iPhone’s weekly screen time reports make even the most diligent of us question, “Did I really spend all those hours on my phone this week?!” It is therefore no surprise that technology appears in all crevices of our lives and can play a huge (and helpful) role in our finances.
There is a great steer towards online banking as we become more astute and mindful of our spending habits during this difficult economic period. It is not uncommon to find a smart phone littered with money saving apps (often aimed at many age groups), online banking apps and Apple Pay, to name a few.
On the whole, we are also increasingly mindful of our paper trail. A cautious move away from paper documents and towards electronic alternatives can be seen as an environmentally friendly approach to managing our legal and financial affairs, as well as a more secure one.
With this in mind, it is becoming difficult for lawyers dealing with estates to find all of the information and financial accounts necessary to enable them to accurately wind up an estate. Research from the insurers Direct Line found that estate practitioners have struggled to find all the financial accounts belonging to an estate in 28 percent of cases over the past 12 months.
This problem can be attributed to a lack of physical bank statements and cards as people move to online banking. The use of biometrics required to access details, such as fingerprints and facial recognition, is also gaining popularity. In addition, there is an increasing number of financial service providers which can add to the workload of the estate practitioners when it comes to their investigatory process.
So, what can be done about this? Taking a holistic approach is usually the best idea, with the main options including:
1. Record Keeping
A simple answer is ‘record keeping’. Something as straight forward as keeping a safe and secure note of all your financial assets and passwords can prove to be invaluable.
It is important that a trusted family member or friend knows where this note is kept. Some individuals opt to keep these details in a sealed envelope, with instructions to the trusted individual to only open it upon their death, or pass it straight to the lawyer that deals with their estate.
2. Annual Reviews
The records do not have to be updated whenever you receive a fresh bank statement but will require to be refreshed if new accounts/investments are acquired and others closed or sold. An annual review might be prudent. This can be an annual review you conduct independently, but many people opt to review their assets with the assistance of a lawyer or financial advisor.
3. Update your Will
Although this is not directly linked to the issue that estate practitioners are facing given the rise of technology, it is always advisable to keep your Will under review. It is helpful to consider if any changes are required after every 5 years or so, or after a significant change in your circumstances e.g. marriage, the birth of a child, etc. Annual reviews of assets often go hand-in-hand with Will reviews, as individuals asses their levels of wealth and consider whether bequests and legacies in their Will are sustainable.
Once you have an accurate and up-to-date note of your assets and are confident that it will be easily accessible upon your death, the next logical step would be to ensure your assets pass to the individuals you want them to upon your death. Having a carefully drafted Will provides this certainty.
Murray Beith Murray are experts in asset protection and estate planning. If this article has raised any questions or you would like to discuss your personal legal affairs, please complete our contact form or call us on 0131 225 1200 to speak to one of our specialist solicitors.
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