Money: Readers' Lives: The money that time forgot

Dormant accounts ... deals for charities. Your queries answered
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The Independent Online
I have an uncle who worked all over the country in repertory theatre. He was somewhat eccentric and we think he opened bank accounts in various towns and cities. He died a few years ago but I have often wondered whether he had any accounts we don't know about. Is there any way of finding out? PB, London

There is no easy answer but an initiative from the British Bankers Association may help you. It has devised a standard procedure for unearthing "dormant" accounts, which will be available from 1 February next year.

Dormant accounts are those where the bank has had no contact with the customer for a certain period of time, say 12 months. If there are no transactions during this period, the bank will write and ask if you want to keep the account open. If you don't reply within a reasonable time, usually between six weeks and three months, the account becomes dormant. No more statements or other communications will be sent out.

The new standard form has been designed to simplify locating your own dormant account or making a legal claim on someone else's account, for example if you are the executor of someone's estate. But the new procedure does not create a central register of dormant accounts. You will have to fill out a form for each bank, and the more details you have the easier it will be to locate any dormant accounts. Banks will have up to three months to respond. In the meantime, money in dormant accounts stays safe.

I am treasurer of a small local charity. We have pounds 14,000 in a business instant access account on which we are earning 3.75 per cent interest. The IoS "best savings rates" table shows much higher rates are available. But when I have enquired about transferring, I am told they are for personal customers only. Do charities really have to miss out on the current trend of rising deposit rates? ID, Nottingham

You probably could do better than 3.75 per cent, especially if you are able to shift some or all of your cash into an account requiring notice. The best account for your needs will depend on how you use it and on the typical balances you keep in the account. Get a free copy of Business MoneyFacts by phoning 01692 500665. The publication is a mine of useful financial information for charities and clubs.

Deals worth considering include Northern Rock's Charity account, paying 6.2 per cent for instant access (0500 505000). Yorkshire building society's instant access Charities account pays 5.55 per cent on balances of pounds 10,000 (0800 378836). NatWest's Diamond Reserve account pays 5 per cent on balances of pounds 10,000 if you give one month's notice of withdrawals (0171 726 1000). Co-op Bank's Business Deposit pays the same rate with 90 days' notice (0345 213213). Some smaller building societies offer very good rates to local customers.

q Write to Steve Lodge, Personal Finance Editor, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, and include a phone number, or fax 0171-293 2096, or e-mail - do not enclose SAEs or any documents you wish returned. We cannot give personal replies or guarantee to answer letters. We accept no legal responsibility for advice given.