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An asset search is a search conducted in relation to a deceased’s estate to locate all assets in the estate. 

Executors (ie those who fulfil all administrative duties relating to a last will and testament) or administrators (ie those who fulfil all administrative duties relating to the distribution of an estate when a will wasn’t made or valid executors weren’t appointed in a will) are responsible for distributing a deceased’s estate amongst the relevant beneficiaries (ie those entitled to an inheritance under the will). Administrators are also known as ‘executor datives’ in Scotland (any references here to an ‘administrator’ also apply to an ‘executor dative’).

Executors and administrators have a duty to locate all relevant assets, to ensure that every beneficiary receives what they are entitled to. They must be able to demonstrate that they conducted a thorough search of where the deceased’s assets may be held. This is particularly important with regard to financial assets (eg shares, pensions or money held in insurance policies). 

Around half a million people die every year in the UK and their estates have to be administered. 

Reports suggest that, in the UK, there could be up to £50 billion of unclaimed assets within lost, dormant and active accounts. It is probable that a significant percentage of this figure belongs to deceased individuals. A chunk of financial assets will occasionally slip through the cracks during estate administration because they are buried or hidden within financial institutions and are difficult to trace. For example, the deceased may have had a pension from a previous employer that they forgot about when writing their will, which is now worth thousands.

Investigating a deceased individual’s financial history can be laborious and time-consuming. Executors and administrators can be forced to contact each financial institution individually with an inquiry into the deceased’s financial past. Without a clear picture of where the deceased held accounts or policies, it can be challenging to uncover certain assets.

If the assets are not identified during estate administration, they may never be exposed and given to the beneficiaries. By using an innovative asset search, every effort is made to maximise the value of the estate. A digital asset search, such as the one provided by Inheritance Data, is designed to explore over 150 financial institutions and expose lost, dormant and active accounts that are owed to a deceased individual during estate administration. This modernises traditional methods. By submitting just one search, the digital asset investigation streamlines current procedures by contacting a range of institutions including banks and building societies, pension and providers, and the DWP, and searches for shares and investments. The one-stop-shop saves executors and administrators from tediously contacting each financial institution individually. The direct responses from the asset search are compiled into a report, which depicts where the deceased party held their accounts and policies. This report is available to view online and reveals the whereabouts and details of any outstanding accounts or policies, enabling the executor or administrator to retrieve any lost assets and maximise the estate value.

To find out more about how financial asset searching can help you, whether acting as executor or administrator, visit Inheritance Data.

If you need help administering an estate, consider using Rocket Lawyer’s Probate service. If you have any general questions about asset searches, estate planning or probate, Ask a lawyer.


Josh Cousens
Josh Cousens
Marketing Coordinator at Inheritance Data

Josh Cousens is the marketing coordinator at Inheritance Data, the UK’s financial asset searching engine. Inheritance Data was designed to modernise estate administration by exploring financial institutions’ records and assembling the assets that are owed to a deceased’s estate during probate.

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