In this article, we explain how bank accounts are deemed dormant; what happens to the assets within these accounts and how to locate financial assets that may have become estranged from the owner. Experian’s Unclaimed Assets Register (UAR) is due to become decommissioned on 29th August 2022 so we detail the other methods of tracing any dormant accounts too.
What is a dormant bank account?
A bank account becomes dormant if there is no customer activity within a set time period, usually between 3 and 15 years. Most banks will write to customers asking if they wish the account to remain active, but in a number of cases, contact may not be made due to a change of address or even death. Accounts may also become dormant because they were set up for children who have grown up and not taken ownership of them; the account holder has changed name making it difficult for the bank to locate them or because owners have simply lost track of them.
What happens to the money in dormant bank accounts?
Banks and Building Societies will make all efforts to locate the owners of any assets that remain dormant within an account but many are part of the Dormant Accounts Scheme where dormant funds can be transferred to Reclaim Funds Ltd (RFL).
In November 2008 the Government passed the Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Act. One of the major principles of this act is to invest unclaimed money back into the community through RFL. Only accounts with no customer activity for 15 years can be accessed, and reclaimed funds can be claimed back if the owner comes forward and requests the balance back. This act also applies to National Savings and Investments (NS&I) accounts.
How can I find any dormant accounts I might have?
There is around £1 billion in unclaimed money in dormant bank accounts and NS&I accounts. So, if you think some of your money might be in a dormant account contact one of the asset tracking companies to help you find it. We detail the most common of these below.
How can I prevent existing accounts from becoming dormant?
If you have old accounts containing money then it's a simple process to stop your money from being snaffled by the Government.
- Contacting your bank and asking for an account statement will be classed as customer activity
- Depositing or withdrawing money will also be classed as customer activity
By doing this on a regular basis (annually will be sufficient) your bank cannot class your account as dormant.
Finally, if the bank where your account is held is taken over by another bank, or even the Government, then make sure you contact them to ensure a smooth transition of your hard-earned cash.