Death is no excuse for bill chasers without probate

When a loved one passes away, executors can begin dealing with any assets of the estate. However, many people do not realise as well as any property or savings, executors can be faced with debts left by the deceased, which can become a minefield without probate in some cases. 

In an article in the Times last weekend, we heard of a man, Robert, who had become the executor of his brother’s estate after he’d passed away from Coronavirus in March. Since his brother’s death, Robert had been hounded by energy company EON for unpaid bills - despite the fact that Robert had contacted EON and explained that his brother had passed away.

EON explained that they’d passed the bills on to their probate partner, Phillips and Cohen - which Robert said went against his wishes and that EON had broken GDPR rules because they had passed on data without his consent.

You don't need to be a legal professional to know that terms and conditions can be a nightmare. It’s so easy to skim read pages of tiny small print and miss several vital details, like in this case, how information is shared with third parties. Indeed, when challenged, EON pointed to a page in Robert’s brother’s contract that stated they were free to do just this as well as anyone EON deals with “directly to help deliver services”. 

The reply from Robert’s solicitor was that these terms were very loose and did not strictly apply to probate. Plus they were buried in the privacy section of EON’s website and there should have been more efforts to draw Robert’s attention to these terms when he became executor, as well as having separate terms that would apply when probate was granted.

EON maintains that they have remained GDPR compliant throughout and that no laws were broken. They also stated that it was up to Robert to pay the £360.12 bill for gas and electricity that was owed on his brother’s account and then reclaimed it once probate was settled. However, Robert has no legal responsibility to pay this before probate is granted.

There has been a long running campaign for banks, utility companies and other financial institutions to release the administrational, and emotional, burden on families when loved ones pass away. The last thing you need when dealing with the estate is the fright of officialdom from big companies demanding that bills are paid - and very little understanding or flexibility.

We would always recommend appointing a solicitor to help too as they can reduce some of the admin that executors can face. We can also check any terms and conditions as well as thoroughly review any wills or probate for each individual situation.

If you would like some advice, contact the Private Client team at Downs Solicitors to see how we can help.

Liz Dalgetty

Liz Dalgetty

Consultant Solicitor & Notary Public

Tel: +44 (0) 1306 502251

Office: Dorking Office