Covid-19 can be cruel enough - without the additional paperwork

The recent pandemic has hit hard in a number of ways, but most of all grief and bereavement. In an article published in the Times, we heard of a son who struggled dealing with his Mother’s estate and some institutions in particularly after his Mother passed away in February this year.

Although the son was able to act as his Mother’s attorney under a registered Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) during her lifetime, his authority to do so ceased when she passed away. A LPA allows an individual (or donor) to nominate someone else of their choosing, to look after their financial affairs in case they are unable to do so themselves, for example, if they become too ill, elderly or frail. This was exactly the case for 66 year old David Green, who’s LPA for his mother, Joyce Green, gave him the legal right to access her finances, such as bank accounts and savings. When the donor passes away the provisions of any will then take effect and authority to deal with the estate of the deceased passes to the appointed executors.

For David and his Mother, everything was going smoothly, until Joyce sadly passed away in February. Watching his mother’s funeral via video link as lockdown began was hard enough, but the paperwork that ensued was about to cause David even more heartache.

Whilst some companies promptly stopped bills - the water company even allowed him to continue using the water supply at Joyce’s property to make a cup of tea without charge - others were slow to catch on.

David said that he had trouble with a dormant account Joyce had shared with her husband, David’s father, who died in 2003. Lloyds Bank had asked David for his father’s death certificate, so that they could transfer the account into his mother’s name before closing the account. In the article, David said: “ If there’s £1 in it I’d be surprised.” David could not locate the death certificate so had to order an official copy from the UK Registry of Births Marriages and deaths which took some weeks to arrive.

Accessing Joyce’s NHS widows pension was easy enough. The scheme was registered with “Tell Us Once” service that notifies public sector services of deaths so that bereaved relatives do not have to make lots of different phone calls. Whilst the NHS pension wasn’t a problem, Joyce’s teacher pension wasn’t registered with Tell Us Once, which meant further investigation as to who to contact, telephone calls and paperwork for David.

Whilst these measures seem bureaucratic, they are necessary legal requirements and with or without social distancing, must still be adhered to and followed closely. Sadly fraudsters are taking advantage of the pandemic and targeting vulnerable people and their families and particularly in relation to deceased’s assets.

Fortunately, David and Joyce got their affairs in order. An LPA meant Joyce was safe in her lifetime in the knowledge that everything was taken care of by her son, and her will appointing David as executor meant he had legal authority to deal with her estate after her passing; however there are very often some bumps in the road.

We can assist and our experienced team can share the burden and support you. We are dealing with matters ongoing during the pandemic too - so if there’s anything you need, contact Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.

Liz Dalgetty

Liz Dalgetty

Consultant Solicitor & Notary Public

Tel: +44 (0) 1306 502251

Office: Dorking Office