Recovery of benefit payments causing concern for the bereaved

When a person dies, it is the responsibility of those administering the estate to collect in the assets, pay off the debts and distribute the estate. The person administering the estate is called the 'Personal Representative'. The assets of the deceased are distributed in accordance with the will of the deceased or the Intestacy Rules if no valid will has been left.

The administration of the estate will usually involve a report of the death to all Government agencies including the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The DWP will involve the Recovery from Estates Section if the deceased was receiving benefits at the date of their death. If the deceased has not received the correct level of benefit, the DWP can try to recover any overpayments from the estate. The significant point is that once the declaration as to the extent of the deceased's estate is submitted, the DWP will have access to the full picture in relation to the deceased's finances. It may be that the deceased failed to declare all of their savings during their lifetime and thus may have received benefits to which they were not entitled.

Many Personal Representatives are finding that the DWP is taking a very long time to conclude these enquiries and it is perceived that the amount of information that the DWP requires is burdensome and unrealistic.  The Personal Representatives will not want to distribute the estate to the beneficiaries until any potential DWP claim is fully concluded.

This delay can cause difficulties for many beneficiaries and can mean that the conclusion of an estate can take much longer than anticipated.

It can assist the administration of an estate if professional advice is taken in relation to preparation of the probate papers.  It is fair to say that estates which are dealt with by lawyers cannot be concluded until any DWP investigation is completed.  However Personal Representatives may consider that the protection of professional and timely advice is worth it.

To discuss this or any other probate or private client related matter, contact us.

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