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PERSONAL FINANCE: Are you due a cash windfall? How people can claim on 'lost' funds

Many of us may be sitting on a pile of money without knowing it
Many of us may be sitting on a pile of money without knowing it Many of us may be sitting on a pile of money without knowing it

A CASH windfall would be a very handy thing to have as households feel the pinch. But many people may have no idea that they are missing out on significant sums of money.

Whether it's sitting in an account that's long been forgotten about, or whether you're entitled to it but haven't yet claimed it, it's worth considering whether there is some cash out there with your name on it.

Here is a look at some of the ways in which people could be missing out - from younger adults to older generations - and how to go about claiming:

Child Trust Funds (CTFs)

Some young adults could be due a windfall of nearly £2,000 (typically) that they're unaware of. They may have had a Child Trust Fund set up for them when they were younger but the money in them may have been long-forgotten.

CTFs are long-term, tax-free savings accounts for people born between September 1 2002 and January 2 2011, which the young person can then go on to access when they turn 18.

Many children received around £250 each from the state at the time their CTF was started, with those from lower-income families receiving £500.

And it's been estimated that the average value sitting in unclaimed accounts is around £1,900.

According to spending watchdog the Public Accounts Committee, more than £1.7 billion sitting in CTFs has not yet been claimed. Recent research from financial services provider Hargreaves Lansdown indicates that, on average, young adults aged 20 to 24 don't have any money at all left over at the end of the month, so the money could come in very handy.

Contacting the provider directly is a first step in tracking a CTF down. If you don't know who the provider was, ask your parent or guardian. You could also ask HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) where the account was originally opened.

People can ask HMRC for help to find a CTF if they are a parent or guardian of a child under 18 or if they are someone who is aged 16 or over and looking for their own CTF. More information can be found at gov.uk/child-trust-funds.

Pension Credit

Some people could see their income boosted by thousands of pounds from making a successful claim for Pension Credit, with the average award being worth more than £3,500 per year.

Pension Credit tops up pensioners' incomes to a minimum of £201.05 per week for single pensioners and to £306.85 for couples, or potentially more if someone has a disability or caring responsibilities. What's more, even a small pension credit award can open doors to other benefits, including help with housing costs, council tax and heating bills.

Previous estimates published on gov.uk, covering the financial year 2019/20, indicated up to 850,000 families who were entitled to receive pension credit did not claim the benefit and up to £1.7 billion of available pension credit went unclaimed, averaging about £1,900 per year for each family entitled to receive pension credit who did not claim.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been sending out letters to some people it believes are likely to be eligible as part of an "invitation to claim" trial - so if you receive a letter, don't ignore it.

Applications for pension credit can be made www.gov.uk/pension-credit/how-to-claimat, by phone, or via a paper form. Further information is at gov.uk/pension-credit - and for pensioners living in Northern Ireland information is available at nidirect.gov.uk/articles/understanding-pension-credit.

Bank accounts

Go through old paperwork to see if you can get an account number. If you have the basic details of your old account, the simplest thing is to contact the bank directly. You could also try mylostaccount.org.uk - a free service which brings together the tracing schemes of UK Finance, the Building Societies Association and National Savings and Investments (NS&I) into a single website.

Information provided through an online application form is passed securely to the institutions that may be holding the lost account. They will then make a search.

Lost pensions

With the average person said to have 11 jobs in their lifetime, it's easy to lose track of a pension pot or two. You can request pension contact details from the Pension Tracing Service by phone or by post, or it is possible to use an online service.

The free Pension Tracing Service helps people to find occupational and personal pensions that they have lost track of, using a database containing information on thousands of pension schemes. More information is at gov.uk/find-pension-contact-details.

Premium Bonds prizes

Whether your win is life-changing or will enable you to buy a few extra treats, make sure you haven't missed out on Premium Bonds prizes by using NS&I's prize checker at nsandi.com/prize-checker.

If you think you have some Premium Bonds but aren't totally sure, NS&I has a free tracing service. More information about this can be found at nsandi.com/products/premium-bonds.