Tracking down lost assets: How WAY member Lucy is helping young widowed people in their search

April 2024

On Thursday, 18 April, WAY member and financial advisor Lucy Logan appeared in an ITV documentary called Claim Your Cash: Britain’s Hidden Fortune alongside fellow member Clare, talking about how to track down lost assets including pensions, bank accounts and insurance policies when your loved one dies. Here are some useful tips from Lucy to help you get started with your own search…

In my role as a financial advisor at Calderwood Financial, I have helped many new clients trace lost pensions and insurance policies, but it wasn’t until I joined the peer support network WAY Widowed and Young in 2021 that I truly started to appreciate how much of a big a problem this is for those who have been bereaved.

It is not unusual for new clients to have lost track of their assets and, having procrastinated for years, they don’t know where to start looking. Add in the trauma of bereavement, and that your loved one isn’t here to help guide the search, finding lost assets becomes extremely difficult. With the transition to paperless correspondence, this may be an even harder mission.

The steps below will help you start your search for lost assets:

Friends & Family – If there are people around you, reach out to them and ask for help; two heads are better than one and it is good for you to have support on what could be an emotional journey.

Professional help – Gretel is a free website that helps you to find lost assets, and – although not all providers are on there, it is certainly worth an initial try. Also, a financial advisor may also be prepared to help. (Financial advisors may charge for this service, therefore it is always worth doing your research on what may work for you and your circumstances.)

Paperwork – It may help to go through old paperwork, if this available, to see if there are any old statements or letters that may allow you to reach out to the provider. Most financial institutions have a Bereavement Team, who you can contact and they should be able to help.

Bank statements – By going through recent bank statements, you may be able to identify potential policies. Look for regular direct debits or standing orders – these could be to an insurance company, a personal pension provider, or to a savings/investment account. Payments into an account might be dividends, or from a share portfolio. The best way to start is by doing a Google search on the payee’s name. If that does not work, you can always contact the bank and ask if they can provide clarity.

Work history – If your loved one had a CV, or you can find an old job application, go through them and attempt to match each role to a pension. If there are gaps in employment history, which could be before you met, ask friends or family if they remember where they worked.

Auto Enrolment was first introduced for larger companies in 2012, with all employers being legally required to take part from 2015; this means that, unless your loved one actively opted out, there will be a pension pot related to an employment. When a person moves jobs, they may transfer their old pension into a new workplace scheme so there may not be a separate pension for every job.

Pension tracing service – You can also make use of the Government’s Pension Tracing Service to identify an employer’s pension provider. There may be several pension providers per employer. In such instances you can telephone or write to them all – they are used to receiving enquiries like yours and will be happy to help you.

Past employers – If you haven’t found the information you need through the Pension Tracing Service, don’t be afraid to call past employers. It might take them a little time, but they will know if your loved one was part of the workplace pension scheme. If a company doesn’t exist anymore, use LinkedIn to find the names of previous employees and ask them if they know who the pension provider was.

Scattergun – If you believe your loved one had a policy, but you can’t find it, contact all the big providers. There is no harm in trying.

Good luck with search and remember, these assets belonged to your loved one and they would want you to have them.

"It’s going to give the kids a bit of financial security in the future. To be able to say to our kids ‘dad’s looked after you’ is very special."