Almost half of Brits (48 per cent) admit to having a secret stash that their loved ones know nothing about – on average more than £11,000, new research has found.
Millions of pounds are being squirrelled away in bank accounts, bonds, stocks and shares, safety deposit boxes and even hiding places at home – from the attic to under the bed.
While nearly a third (29 per cent) claimed they simply hadn't got round to telling their nearest and dearest, 38 per cent said it was theirs to do what they wanted with. One in 10 (10 per cent) shielded savings in case their loved ones tried to spend it and six per cent confessed that they just didn’t trust them.
On average, men had twice as much hidden away as women and in some cases the secret haul was worth as much as £500,000.
The study of 2,000 Brits was carried out by wills specialists at law firm Slater and Gordon who say people could be leaving thousands of pounds in unclaimed assets when they die.
Twelve per cent of people had found cash or valuables stashed in the home of a loved one who had passed away and almost two thirds (61 per cent) of those suspected that there could have been more. The most common hiding places were suitcases (28 per cent), under mattresses (25 per cent), the attic (12 per cent) plus a host of weird and wonderful spots including clothing, curtain lining, cereal boxes, books, pianos and teapots.
One in 10 (10 per cent) said it was because they didn’t trust banks, while 12 per cent liked to keep their assets close at hand.
James Beresford, head of the wills, tax, trusts and probate team at Slater and Gordon, said: “We have seen a rise in money being found at home, especially since the financial crisis as people have grown more fearful of banks.
“I had one client who had hidden £30,000 in cash in a carrier bag under his u bend. Another had hollowed out the bricks around his fireplace and hid it in there.
“That money does form part of your estate if it’s found and that’s the problem – often it isn’t. As well as the obvious risks of it being stolen or misplaced while you're still alive, when you die your home and its contents may well be cleared out or sold without anyone ever realising it's there.”
A third of people (33 per cent) couldn’t remember how much they had in their stash or the details for all their accounts (36 per cent) and almost one in four (24 per cent) said there could even be other accounts or investments that they had forgotten about.
Rainy day funds weren’t restricted to cold, hard cash either, with many choosing to invest in property (36 per cent), jewellery (37 per cent), antiques (seven per cent) and artwork (six per cent) to gold coins (six per cent).
But just 14 per cent of those with non-cash assets knew their current market value and 17 per cent had no idea.
Savings also added up when people included their credit in online accounts such as Paypal (67 per cent), the lottery (16 per cent), betting accounts (14 per cent) and shopping vouchers (14 per cent).
More than half (55 per cent) admitted that no one else would be able to access their assets if anything happened to them. Just four per cent had left the details in their will and 57 per cent hadn’t made one at all.
Experts say it is still a common misconception that people’s assets will go to their nearest and dearest.
James said: “There’s no such thing as a ‘common law’ husband or wife, which is a mistake a lot of people make. For example, if you’ve been married, but are in a new relationship when you die then your assets will go to your ex-spouse unless you specify otherwise.
“People also forget what assets they do have. These days many of us have multiple accounts, for example, and you may have old ones that you’ve switched from but forgotten to close. I had a client who had 75 different bank accounts.
“With paperless statements it's becoming much more difficult to keep track because there's no physical evidence and that's why we advise people to make a yearly asset sheet with details of all their cash and investments.
“In most cases people stash money away with the best of intentions to plan for their family’s future, but that’s no use if no one knows about it other than you.”