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Every year, millions in assets are lost because people are not keeping a record of them in their will. The problem is growing as more people conduct their financial activities digitally, leaving no physical paper records for families to sort through.

Almost £5 billion worth of inherited wealth is now sitting unclaimed, according to research from dormant asset holders The Reclaim Fund.

That is a huge amount of money that people will never find if stored solely on apps, online trading platforms, or offshore cryptocurrency accounts.

Bank accounts, savings, shares, cryptos and other sources of wealth can prove hard to track down when people pass away.

In some cases, loved ones may not even know they exist at all, said Jenny Walsh, a partner specialising in wills and probate at Osbornes Law.

That’s because the person who owned and managed the money never told anybody it existed, or how they could track it down.

Families are increasingly requesting help to carry out asset searches on death in a desperate hunt for lost wealth, Walsh said.

“With a growing number of people having digital assets and not getting any paperwork in the post, more and more are struggling to find a deceased’s assets when they die,” Walsh said.

While there are ways of hunting down these assets, the process can cost hundreds of pounds, and creates huge anxiety while families wait to discover if the money can be found.

The task gets tougher when people have assets located abroad, including crypto, which they may have traded online in the UK but on a platform that operates in another jurisdiction altogether.

Often the money can be worth a fortune but people simply do not know what it is worth or how to get hold of it.

Overseas assets are tricky to trace unless you have some idea where the account may be, Walsh warned. “You need to have some connection with a particular country, such as knowing the deceased had a bank account there.”

Osbornes often deals with clients who are struggling to trace lost money. “I have dealt with estates where a considerable amount of money has potentially been lost because the family has some idea that the deceased was wealthy but no idea where the money could be.”

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With one in five owning crypto, the problem is set to grow. Even if you do gain access to an account in a foreign jurisdiction, the local probate procedure may be different and a UK will may not even be valid, Walsh added.

“Procedures may be complicated to navigate and there may be tax implications, for example, foreign inheritance tax.”

Rules on inheritances can be very different in many countries, so the wrong family members could benefit.

Accessing online savings or investment accounts can be difficult as many are on an app on a person’s phone, Walsh added. “Family members often do not have their phone password or an account reference number.”

Walsh said the best way to avoid losing assets is through the old-fashioned method of keeping an asset log with your will. “This will allow a personal representative to find relevant details like account numbers.”

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You also need to keep it up to date, but most people do not. “Your will is one of the most important documents you will ever write as without one, and an asset log, your loved ones may lose the wealth you worked so hard to build up during your life.”

Daniel Cane, chief executive of financial asset search company Inheritance Data, said: “The amount of money which is unclaimed is simply mind-boggling, and potentially life-changing for some of those bereaved families and beneficiaries to whom it is owed.”

Millions of pounds in inheritance is going unclaimed every year because solicitors are not taking advantage of modern technology to uncover accounts, policies and shares due to bereaved families, he added