Ask the Expert: My mum’s banking papers were lost in a fire and her building society doesn’t exist any more. Can we still get to the money?

Carl Lamb, managing director of Almary Green.

Carl Lamb, managing director of Almary Green. - Credit: Archant

Is it possible to recover money from a defunct building society, even without the proper paperwork? Carl Lamb of Almary Green responds.

Earning have fallen in real terms as wages have failed to keep up with inflation since the financial

Earning have fallen in real terms as wages have failed to keep up with inflation since the financial crash in 2008. Picture: Sonya Duncan. - Credit: Sonya Duncan

Q. My mother opened an account with a building society about 40 years ago and put £1,000 in it 'for a rainy day'.

She had the book tucked away in her desk ever since – I remember seeing it when I was a child. I don't think she ever had the book made up with the interest. Sadly, she had a fire in her sitting room last year and all of her papers were destroyed. We know which building society it was with – the Chilterns Building Society – but they don't seem to exist any more. She's now worried that she won't be able to get her money out. Is there a way she can track it down?

Response from Carl Lamb of Almary Green:

A. The Building Societies Association (BSA) has some helpful guidance on their website and provides a search function to check what happened to a building society that has merged or changed name.

In the case of the Chilterns Building Society, information about their savings accounts can be obtained from Santander.

Further tracing services can be found at, which is a site that has been set up and is run by the BSA, the British Bankers' Association (BBA) and National Savings & Investments (NS&I).

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Between them, they represent just about every possible savings or current account in the UK. The site takes you through some simple steps to start to track your money down, after which you complete a form to request a full trace.

Your story demonstrates the real need to keep on top of one's finances. It is very probably true that your mother's savings will have grown over the past 40 years, but it is equally likely that she could have seen better returns if she had been more proactive about her savings, rather than leaving them unchecked and not reviewed for so long.

It's a salutary tale for all of us too: it is very sensible to keep a separate note of all financial details (account numbers, etc) somewhere safe, so that in the event of a catastrophe, they can be accessed.