What is an unclaimed asset?

An unclaimed asset is a term that refers to virtually anything of value that is presently held in trust by a custodian organisation (such as a bank or insurance company). Assets are generally considered lost or unclaimed when contact with the owner is lost for a long time.

What are the most common types of unclaimed assets?

Common types of unclaimed assets comprise unclaimed insurance policies, dormant bank and building society accounts, unclaimed pensions, and unclaimed equity investments (stocks and shares).

For more information on types of assets please see ‘Types of Assets’: Insurance Policies, Dormant Accounts, Pension Scheme and SAYE Member Tracing, Unclaimed Equity Investments and Related Assets.

How was the asset in question lost?

The custodian organisations may have lost contact with you, or have never been in touch with you, for a number of reasons, such as an unreported change of address, a change of name after marriage or divorce, the asset holder having passed away, or simply documents having been lost in the post.

Whatever the circumstances, we are here to help all those who are genuinely unaware of their unclaimed entitlement(s).

Why have you contacted me?

We have contacted you either because we believe that you have an unclaimed entitlement and would like to help you to recover it, or, because we feel you may be able to help us to locate someone you know or may have known (such as a relative, friend or former neighbour), that we believe has an unclaimed entitlement due to them.

How have you found me?

By consulting consented data and public records such as telephone directories and the electoral roll, as well as perhaps contacting people who you know or have known you in the past (strictly on a voluntary basis and without payment).

How did Treethorpe come by this information?

We work together with custodian organisations wherever possible, to assist them in maintaining their own (sometimes legal) obligations, by tracing asset holders they have lost contact with. We also work with a variety of publicly available data sources, including government gazettes, land registries, share registers, patent registers, and — where available — census data, and records of births, marriages and deaths, to help identify assets and entitlements that appear to have been lost, forgotten or unclaimed.

Alternatively, individuals and organisations may contact us to conduct research for them because they are unable to trace the relevant individuals with the resources they possess.

Why do assets become unclaimed?

Sometimes, the original owner is indeed alive and well, and a set of circumstances have arisen due to a simple change of name or address that the custodian was perhaps not made aware of. In other cases, the last known owner may have died, usually many years ago, and our work will involve tracing the rightful beneficiaries possibly through several generations of descendants and possibly scattered across the world.

How do we identify owners and beneficiaries?

In the majority of cases, the process for researching into the whereabouts of owners, beneficiaries or living heirs is complicated and protracted, requiring extensive genealogy skills particularly for cases that involve a deceased’s estate.

We may have to work our way through a family tree, (using public records i.e. Births, Deaths & Marriages) or attempt to make contact with other relatives, friends or neighbours. This sort of research work can also include working through census records dating back decades, or even centuries.

Unfortunately, although it may lead to a living relative, the line of entitlement may stop at any given point; for example, second and third cousins cannot inherit under the rules of intestacy. On these occasions, we will often have to abandon the case, or refer the matter on to the relevant government agency.

Even if a person dies with a valid Will, complications may arise if the estate has remained un-administered for a long time, as for example the appointed personal representatives have also since passed away. In such cases, we will follow the line of Executorship, but if this line ends or the individuals that may act are unwilling to do so, we will have to revert to the rules of intestacy instead.

When the correct individual(s) have been found, and our research validated by our internal quality assurance we will verify their identity initially by asking them to confirm certain information that we may already hold.

It is only after we have made sure we have traced the correct individual(s) that we will invite them to engage our services and provide the necessary information needed to claim their entitlement(s).

What are the commission costs?

In general, when we are successful, we will request payment of a standard commission rate calculated as a percentage of the total value of the asset(s)/estate. The level of the success fee payable will be agreed at the start of each engagement.

What are your administration costs?

When we are successful in providing a service to you, and if the nature of any engagement with the custodian organisation requires, we will request payment of an administration fee. An additional tracing fee may also be requested should the circumstances of the case necessitate this. Specific details of what fees apply and how much they come to will be shown very clearly in your service pack.

For more details of our fees please see our Fees and Commissions page.

Will I have to pay an administration and/or tracing fee?

Normally applicable where we are working in association with a custodian organisation. The nature of the relationship between you and the custodian organisation dictates what precisely they have done to keep in (or get in) touch with you, and what cost they can or are willing to incur in that process. They will almost certainly have made efforts and expended resources, well before engaging us.

In addition to this, it is inevitably as a result of a change in circumstances for the private individual that will have triggered lost contact, and this may have been avoided by for example, informing the custodian organisation of a change of address.

Is there an additional charge for you to recover the assets on my behalf?

We offer to make a full or partial recovery of the asset(s) involved in each case on behalf of our clients.

We do encourage our clients to consider allowing us to help them in this way as a matter of routine as the recovery of unclaimed assets can be a time-consuming and difficult exercise for the unwary; our experience of such matters will help ensure it is dealt with as promptly and efficiently as possible.

Where we do administer the recovery of the asset(s) any incidental costs and disbursements charged by third parties will be deducted from the proceeds of the asset(s) at cost (as per Paragraph 32 of the Treethorpe Terms and Conditions). Where the distribution exceeds five beneficiaries we will reserves the right to apply a Case Handling Fee in line with our published rates on a Time and Materials basis.

Do I have to pay anything upfront?

No. Our service is based on ‘success’ and therefore no payment is due to us until we have been able to provide our service successfully.

How much of an entitlement will I get?

How much an entitled relative inherits depends on how much the estate is worth, how many beneficiaries there are, and what level of the family tree they are on. For example, a child may have pre-deceased their parents, leading to grandchildren on the next level receiving their own parents’ share as well as the siblings of the child who they pre-deceased.

If however a relative of the deceased cannot be traced then the entitlement eventually goes to the Crown. The time limit on making a claim on unclaimed assets is usually 12 years. If the claim is made within 30 years of the individual passing away however, the Crown may allow the estate to be retrieved at their discretion.

Are there any risks involved?

Not for our clients. Any fee that is payable is wholly dependent on us getting it right; if we are wrong, we cannot request any payment as our own terms and conditions do not allow it. The only risk involved is in fact ours, as the cost incurred by us in the course of progressing what turn out to be invalid cases, are borne by us.

Clients acting as Personal Representatives to an unclaimed estate should refer to the Personal Representative Guide on how risks are minimalised by using our service.

Can you use the authorities I provide you for anything other than the unclaimed assets I am entitled to?

No. The authorities you provide us are narrow and specific to the particular asset or assets that we have identified. Therefore, it will only be used in connection with this case, and will only ever be used to recover the said entitlement(s) of which you are currently unaware of. All authorities are revoked once each case is completed, or sooner if requested at any time.

Could you have made contact with me to pursue debts I might have towards an organisation?

No. Our service deals with assets and not liabilities. We locate people to reunite them with missing assets such as forgotten assets or inheritances, not debts.

How long do you have to wait for results?

This can vary dramatically from one case to the next, depending on the complexity and the difficulty involved throughout the research, disclosure and recovery stages. We always endeavor to act promptly at every stage but often the timescale is dependent on third parties, such as for example the custodian of the asset(s) in question, responding to requests and correspondences we submit on behalf of our clients.

Be assured that we will always progress your case as quickly as we can.

How long do your cases take to get completed, on average?

On average, from initial contact to successful recovery for our client, within six months, though on simpler cases it could be as little as 4-12 weeks.

Can I make the claim myself instead of agreeing to proceed with you?

Yes is the short answer, though if the unclaimed entitlement is genuinely lost or forgotten in the first place, you may not know what there is to recover of course.

Additionally, our researchers are trained and skilled in recovering assets. They know how to handle ‘red tape’ and other legal barriers in order to obtain your rightful assets.

For further help with your enquiries, contact our Resources Manager, David Amblin on +44 (0) 20 8914 8317 or email direct d.amblin@treethorpe.com