The DWP have put me on notice of a ‘claim against the estate’. What is this, what should I do and what is the process?
Posted on 4th April 2023 at 11:37
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may review the financial affairs of someone who has died if they were in receipt of means-tested benefits in their lifetime.
Means-tested benefits are awarded to an individual based on the level of their income and savings. Means testing means that individuals who earn over a certain amount of money, or have a certain amount of savings are not eligible to receive these types of benefits. The DWP also takes into account any stocks and shares, property, or other assets including premium bonds that a person owns when considering whether they are eligible for means-tested benefits.
Some examples of means-tested benefits include:-
• Universal credit
• Council tax support
• Housing benefit
• Pension credit
• Social fund including cold weather payment/funeral payment.
The purpose of a DWP review is to ensure that any means-tested benefits paid out to the deceased were correctly awarded and assessed.
If it transpires that means-tested benefits have been paid incorrectly, this money will have to be paid back to the DWP.
The DWP has the legal authority under Section 126 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992 to ask for a list of the assets and liabilities in the estate of the deceased person at the time they passed away.
The personal representative (executor or administrator of an estate) will be responsible for liaising with the DWP and ensuring that any claim against the estate is settled before completing the administration of the estate and distributing estate funds. If you distribute the estate and a claim is subsequently made, or you distribute the estate whilst a claim by the DWP is ongoing, you may be personally liable to settle the outstanding sum.
Your duty will include providing accurate information to the DWP to include where the person was living at the time of their passing, the arrangements i.e. when they moved into care/sold their house etc as this can affect means-tested benefits. You should also provide details of any income the deceased was receiving, and a list of their capital assets as detailed above.
Once the relevant information is provided to the DWP, they will review the information they hold on record to see whether means-tested benefits were correctly claimed/awarded. If the means-tested benefits were correctly awarded then the claim against the estate will be settled and the matter closed. At this point, you will be able to distribute the estate and tie off the administration of the estate.
However, if the means-tested benefits were not correctly assessed, then the DWP may make further enquiries by asking for bank statements or other evidence to allow them to calculate the sum due back to them. This will usually be for a set period during the deceased’s lifetime.
If the DWP request bank statements of other financial information you will need to contact each financial house and request the details. This may be time consuming and there may be a cost to obtaining copy statements or other documentation. If you are unable to obtain the documentation requested, then the DWP may ask to you obtain statements/documentation as close to the relevant date as possible.
The DWP will give you a timescale in which you must reply to their correspondence, but it may be possible to request an extension.
Once the DWP have assessed all the information they will complete their investigation and contact you with the outcome. This is likely to be a claim against the estate for over-paid means-tested benefits or confirmation that there is no further action due, and you can distribute the estate.
Avery Walters can assist with the administration of estate, grant only applications and other ad hoc estate matters.
At Avery Walters our team of specialists can also provide advice about Wills, Lasting Powers of Attorney, Trusts and more.
Contact us on 0113 2007480 or email us at email@example.com to arrange your free initial, no-obligation consultation with a specialist.
Contact us on 0113 2007480 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange your free initial, no-obligation consultation with a specialist
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