Money Insider: Make a will, otherwise your financial assets could go unclaimed

In the UK there is currently more than £600m sitting in unclaimed bank accounts, £44m in premium bonds and more than £3bn in stocks and shares

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Making a will is one of those tasks that UK consumers put off the most, and that's one of the main reasons why every year about £175m worth of assets left by loved ones ends up not being passed on.

If you don't leave a will, the law decides how your estate is distributed – and this may not be in line with your wishes.

None of us likes to talk about death and I can understand why, but a report at the end of last year from willsandassets.co.uk made me sit up and take notice.

According to its findings about a third of people who have lost a family member in the past 10 years have struggled to locate their financial assets. That's why in the UK there is currently more than £600m sitting in unclaimed bank accounts, £44m in premium bonds and more than £3bn in stocks and shares.

Stephen Foden of Wills & Assets summed up the issue in a nutshell; "No one wants to think about what will happen when they die, but failing to do so can leave those behind with significant problems and stress at what is already a tough time."

The problem occurs if people don't know what savings, investments, life insurance and valuables you own. They have little chance of tracking them all down, and if they turn to a solicitor to help, they can easily run up a bill of £2,000-plus , even in a fairly straightforward case.

The extra trouble and expense can be avoided if you follow three simple steps.

First, make a will (and keep it updated every few years). Then, tell your family that you've made a will and where it's located. Last but most importantly, draw up a list of your assets and keep it with your will. That way the wealth that you've worked so hard for will go to the people that you want to receive it.

A little forethought and planning now will make it much easier for your family to sort everything out when you die – otherwise it can be a much more time consuming and stressful exercise.

Virgin Money muscles in on 0 per cent card war

Only a couple of weeks ago I was questioning the trend of longer interest-free balance transfer deals, when out of the blue Virgin Money refreshed its credit card range, including a 36-month offer, going head-to-head with Barclaycard.

This is the first new range of deals from Virgin Money since it bought a portfolio of credit card assets from MBNA for £363m last December.

The 36-month zero per cent card may be equal longest in the market but it does come with a hefty balance transfer fee of 3.49 per cent, so don't opt for the longest term on the market if you don't need it. Choosing a card with a shorter introductory term will come with a cheaper fee.

Virgin Money along with former stable mate MBNA are the only credit card providers that offer a "money transfer" facility whereby you can transfer funds from your card into your bank accounts.

This can be an excellent way to clear expensive overdrafts – if you're financially disciplined.

Virgin Money charges a one-off 4 per cent transfer fee for three years whereas MBNA, for a 24-month interest-free duration, offers this facility for a 1.94 per cent fee. So find the duration that works for you, as the longest term isn't always the best.

The recent move by Barclaycard from 34 to 36 months may well have been in anticipation of the new Virgin Money offer so it will be interesting to see which of these players is first to move beyond the three-year threshold.

Andrew Hagger is an independent personal finance analyst from www.moneycomms.co.uk

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