Clients making their Wills with me often ask ‘how will my family know what I’ve got when it comes to Probate?’
The truthful answer is that both family and Solicitors rely on the deceased being an orderly person who leaves their financial affairs in relatively good order! As Solicitors, we work from the paperwork the family are able to provide, and try to deduce clues as to further possible assets from that paperwork and a close examination of bank statements. Unfortunately there is no all-encompassing database which will tell you exactly what assets a person had.
If the question is asked in advance, such as when a Will is being prepared, then we recommend to clients that they prepare a schedule of everything they have to be stored with the Will.
It is not necessary (or sometimes even practical) to refer to everything you own specifically in your Will – your assets may well change before you die and there is a danger something might be left out. Also, the conventional clause dealing with the ‘residue’ of your estate in a Will, will effectively ensure that it covers any assets not specifically referred to.
The other advantage of a separate schedule is that you can change it as many times as you want to before your death, without having to make a new Will each time!
More recently, this question also includes ‘what should I do about my online passwords?’ One possibility is a security cloud – which is like an online storage facility for important information and documents, not linked to one specific computer. However you will still need to make sure the password for your security cloud is accessible! We would also still recommend the benefits of a paper schedule, again which can be kept with your Will and updated as necessary. Access to online bank accounts is not so vital as most banks will deal with matters on a paper basis, however you may need to consider accounts with anything which is purely online, such as Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, any blogs you post to…
Providing your Executors with details as to how they can access your accounts and perhaps also a brief note as to how you would like them dealt with (closed, left open, maybe a final post notifying other users of your death), will help them in dealing with these issues at an already difficult time.