I am writing to let other probate practitioners know that I contacted the Practice Advice arm of the Law Society to see if it can help stem the tide of pension credit ‘claims against the estate’ letters we receive from the Department for Work and Pensions.
Where a person had a large estate it is understandable the DWP may query it, but today I received a letter on a matter where the net estate was less than £20,000. I assumed the DWP must not be writing due to the value of the estate and pressed ahead with preparing my estate accounts and finalising matters. I now have to write to the beneficiary who will of course be disappointed (there is rarely a quick turnaround with this department) and revise my costs – unless of course the DWP expects us to work for free?
My frustration is that the department is essentially dictating when an estate can be distributed and, seemingly, the statutory notices do not apply to it.
This is yet another responsibility for solicitors. The only time I had distributed the estate by the time the DWP had written (we did not know the deceased had claimed pension credit), I was treated as if I had done something wrong.
I hope the Society can back me up on this as, to quote Sam Smith, ‘I know I’m not the only one’.
Rachael Waring, solicitor, St Helens