Why going ‘paperless’ can hinder estate planning

While undoubtedly good for the environment, going ‘paperless’ with bills and account information can cause problems when it comes to administering an estate. In this article, the UK’s official public record, The Gazette explains the issues surrounding paper trails and probate.

Finding paperless accounts

With technology and cyber security becoming more and more advanced, it’s no surprise than many choose to hold their personal and account information on their smartphone rather than in paper documents.

However, while transferring bank funds and checking utility bills online has made financial planning easier in the moment, it can cause issues for loved ones when someone dies, with executors and personal representatives often struggling to locate and access information without a paper trail.

According to a survey by Direct Line, 27 per cent of Brits married and in relationships do not know where their partners’ money is banked or invested. Not only that, 17 per cent of people who have been in a relationship for 10 years or more would not know how to locate their partner’s assets in the event of their passing.

In other words, unless the deceased has previously spoken about their savings accounts, assets and debts, some wealth can be overlooked by the executor or personal representative during the probate process when there’s no paper trail.

Executor duties

When someone dies, as well as telling the government that the person has died (usually through the Tell Us Once online service), executors also need to inform any:

  • banks
  • utility companies
  • landlords
  • mortgage lenders
  • share registrars
  • private pension providers
  • credit card holders

With paper documents, this process can be as simple as going through the deceased’s belongings and identifying banks, energy suppliers, and pension providers. This information can then be taken with a death certificate to the supplier/bank to stop the deceased’s accounts from the date of death.

However, online accounts pose problems for executors. If a paper trail doesn’t exist and they are not made aware of an asset, they simply cannot administer it. This can have significant implications when it comes to the amount of inheritance tax which needs to be paid on the estate, and the amount that the beneficiaries receive.

Informing creditors

But it’s not only account details that might be needed by executors. When someone dies, any outstanding debts still need to be paid by the deceased’s estate. Therefore, it’s important that this information is easily found. However, with more and more creditors sending invoices online, often the paper trail can be difficult to access.

This is another problem for executors but one which does thankfully have a solution in deceased estates notices.

Placing a deceased estates notice in The Gazette

After you receive a grant of probate, the law recommends you place a deceased estates notice (also known as Section 27 placement) in The Gazette and a local newspaper to find creditors who are owed money by the estate.

A deceased estates notice is an advertisement placed in The Gazette which contains the details of a deceased person and the executor/administrator, so that anyone or any organisation owed money by the deceased person's estate can come forward.

Placing a deceased estates notice demonstrates that enough effort has been made to find creditors before distributing an estate to its beneficiaries (the people who will inherit the estate). This protects the executor from being personally responsible for money owed to any unidentified creditors.

If you don't place a notice and a creditor comes forward after the estate has been distributed, then you may have to pay the creditor yourself. Once the deceased estates notice has been placed, creditors have 2 months and 1 day to make a claim against the estate.

Gazette notice placement is easy and cost-effective. Simply create an account and submit your notice online. We can even arrange a local newspaper advertisement for extra peace of mind.

Find out more about placing a deceased estates notice.


Posted on 30.07.21