Do you have savings you've forgotten? Act now to find them

Funds in dormant accounts will soon be siphoned off into the Big Lottery Fund. Chiara Cavaglieri reports
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The Independent Online

You have less than six months to claim forgotten or lost savings.

Banks and building societies hold millions of pounds in old accounts but the Government is to put this "sleeping" money into a central fund for charitable causes. Funds in dormant accounts will be siphoned off next year and distributed to youth and other community projects. You'll still be able to get at your cash after this happens, but the process is likely to be much more complicated, which means savers should check now for old and forgotten accounts.

"The likely introduction of the unclaimed assets scheme is in the first half of 2010. Work is under way to establish the Reclaim Fund – the body that, in the first instance, dormant- accounts monies will be transferred to," says Rachel Le Brocq from the Building Societies Association.

Some money will be retained for future claims and the balance transferred to the Big Lottery Fund for distribution. An alternative scheme will be set up for building societies and banks with assets under £7bn. "Instead of the Big Lottery Fund, these organisations can choose good causes local to the society, or with which they have a connection, to donate to," adds Ms Le Brocq.

Legally, the dormant cash will always belong to the original account holder. Several banks, most notably HSBC and Halifax, are actively seeking people who may hold a dormant account with them. "We have managed to reunite almost 5,500 of our customers with around £9.25m, but we still have a long way to go," says Brendan Cook, the general manager of HSBC customer propositions.

Halifax, and the rest of Lloyds Banking Group, has so far reunited customers with £32.8m. "In challenging times, reuniting customers with dormant funds could prove a welcome boost to many," says Peter Jackson, the managing director of consumer banking at Lloyds.

Despite the efforts of these banks and the website Mylostaccount.org.uk – a joint venture by the Building Societies Association, British Bankers' Association, and National Savings & Investments – there is still some £880m lying unclaimed.

Accounts are considered dormant if there has been no activity or contact with the client for 15 years. It can be surprisingly easy for an account to lie forgotten; people may change address and lose contact with their bank and other accounts are lost when the holder dies. There are also accounts that the holder is unaware of, usually as a result of relatives setting up savings products on behalf of children.

Anyone who thinks they may hold a dormant account can go to the provider directly if they have details of the account. Many banks have reclaim-application forms on their websites or a procedure in place for this purpose.

If it is unknown where the account is held, Mylostaccount can help track it down. The process is straightforward and free, although success is not guaranteed. After logging on to the website, applicants are required to enter their personal data. Providing as many details as possible, such as previous addresses and maiden names, increases the chance of success. This data is forwarded to the financial institutions which can then search their own records. This process takes around three months. If an account is found, a series of security checks for proof of identity must be passed before the money is released.

Beyond bank and building society accounts, assets such as pensions, share dividends, life insurance policies and investment funds can be traced through the Unclaimed Assets Register. Individuals pay £25 per search of the database of unclaimed policies, share dividends and unit trust holdings from its long list of member companies.

For occupational and personal pensions, the Pension Service has an online tracing service (Thepension service.gov.uk). The Investment Management Association (Investmentuk.org) and Association of Investment Companies (Theaic.co.uk) can be contacted to check for forgotten unit or investment trusts.

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