If like me, you are currently waking up in the middle of the night, sweaty and full of guilt at not having completed your Tax Return (or, in my case, my husband’s), fear not. You still have a few days left and I have the perfect idea for displacement activity.
Very rarely (more’s the pity), I take instructions for a Will and am asked what paperwork needs to be kept and what paperwork can be used as fire starters (or securely shredded with professional head on – did Worzel have one of those?). I think to myself, their executors don’t know how lucky they are! I watched my Mum agonising for weeks over articles my Nan cut out of magazines in the 60’s, wondering what the relevance was.
I try to find ways to convince people that they don’t need cupboards full of paper. The attachment to this sentimental insulation is so great, I muse over suggesting a legacy in the Will that states “a loft full of papers, old birthday cards and holiday leaflets to my nearest and dearest for them to puzzle over for years to come, and cherish as much as I did”.
Being a recent convert to this lighter way of life and a private client solicitor, I am perfectly placed to explain why. Until last year I kept every, single paper bank statement since aged 16. Do my executors really need to know that I paid £20 into my account on 5th December 2002? To then take £20 out the next day!! Busted – I did shred the statements but only after scanning them!
When a person dies, the bulk of the information required is as at the date of death and this is easily obtainable at the time – the information flows when the institutions are notified of the death.
The general rule is that you should keep:
- Bank and credit card statements for 3-4 months – review them as they come in for any discrepancies. Having said that, statements are useful for tracking gifts or loans but, having the details of these set out in a separate document (perhaps with the accompanying bank statement) is far more useful to your executors when they are satisfying their duty to report any gifts made in the 7 years before death
- Utility bills perhaps for a year so you can track what you use
- Warranties and receipts until they run out
- Payslips until you get your P60
- Medical information, share certificates, policy documents, premium bonds, and personal information (passports, driving licences, birth certificates, current will, love letters) forever
- If you’re completing tax returns and are self-employed the information used to complete your return should be kept for at least 5 years (7, to be sure)
- If you’re a trustee, trust deeds and paperwork should be kept for as long as the trust is going and beyond
- If your spouse/civil partner is no longer with us you should locate a copy of their will, grant of probate, death certificate, details of any lifetime gifts they made, deeds of variation of their will and your marriage certificate as this will be needed to claim any additional inheritance tax nil rate bands
The above could be contained within one large storage box. Anyone? People make a business out of clearing paperwork so save your money and precious time and get shredding!
Get your paperwork in order and stop wasting time searching for what you want and receive peace of mind knowing things are under control for you and your loved ones. Then you must crack on with your Tax Return. Good Luck!
Solicitor at Randall & Phillips LLP
Melissa Gilman TEP, solicitor at Randall & Phillips LLP, is a proud member of SFE and is so passionate about private client law that she co-founded a thriving specialist firm in SW14 and provides quality assistance with a higher level of care and compassion.
Randall & Phillips LLP is an award-winning, boutique firm with a refreshing outlook and big ideas. Of utmost importance is an open approach to fees and, a willingness to provide fixed fees for most of services (which are proudly displayed on our website) sets us apart from all firms in the local area. Randall & Phillips strive to take the stress and sometimes confusion out of these sensitive private client matters.