The Department for Work and Pensions has promised to review how it handles possible benefits overpayments into estates following a complaint by a solicitor.
Terry Moore (pictured), a partner at Hull firm Burstalls and chair of the Hull Probate Practitioners group, told the Gazette that he hoped the review would benefit most estates in England and Wales.
The review was promised after Moore complained to the DWP when an investigation into his 89-year-old client’s estate caused ‘great delay’.
Moore said that while such an investigation should take roughly three months, this enquiry took almost a year, with the DWP’s lawyers posing questions that were impossible to answer.
According to Moore, the DWP asked for bank statements from 2003, despite the fact that most banks do not keep records for more than six years.
He said the department caused ‘great delay and distress’ to the executors and beneficiaries of the estate as the administration of the assets and liabilities could not be completed until the outcome of the enquiries was known.
He added: ‘The department’s repeated inappropriate, impractical and misinformed enquiry set off a merry-go-round of correspondence without any practical value.’
Following an intervention by Moore’s MP, the DWP apologised for the delay and said that it would review processes, including how far back it requires bank statements, and implement any improvements as soon as possible.
A spokesperson from the DWP said that while it tries to identify possible benefit overpayments as ‘quickly and as sensitively as possible’ these can often be complex cases requiring timely information from executors and solicitors.
The spokesperson added: ‘We are committed to continuously improving the service we provide and as part of our review we welcome feedback from the legal profession so we can ensure the process is as effective as possible.’