News, Culture & Society

ASK TONY: Our £17k horror after my cousin died without leaving a will

My 59-year-old cousin died suddenly last July without leaving a will. He never married, nor did he have any siblings, a legal partnership or children. He lived all of his life at the same address with his widowed 92‑year-old mother.

I applied to the High Court for Letters of Administration. Every bank and insurance company paid out last year except Legal & General.

My cousin had an L&G WorkSave Pension Plan. On August 5 last year his employer notified L&G of his death. But it took almost four months and many prompts and complaints to get a claim form, which eventually arrived November 27.

Lack of trust: A reader has been struggling to convince Legal and General that he is related to his late cousin

That was quickly dispatched. Now every time we chase L&G, it sends yet another form, often asking for information which I have already sent.

Currently, it claims that because my cousin had a short birth certificate, which does not show his parents’ names, they cannot be sure that my aunt was his mother. This despite the fact that I was granted Letters of Administration by the High Court of Justice and have repeatedly asserted that she was.

No other institution has asked for his birth certificate.

I also sent L&G my aunt’s marriage certificate which showed the same address as my cousin’s death certificate. She has lived there since her marriage and my cousin never had another address in his life.

Still questioning my honesty and my cousin’s parenthood, L&G said it ‘would try to get a full certificate’, which, given the current state of government departments, could take many more months.

My aunt is frail. I am 77, in increasingly poor health and need to see an end to this. Given that the amount in question is just £17,000, I find the firm’s prevarication extraordinary.

S. C., Torquay, Devon.

Tony Hazell replies: When will companies learn to treat bereaved people with the consideration and support they deserve and need?

L&G has apologised for its intransigent behaviour.

This smacks of some jobsworth sitting at home ticking boxes while you face increasing anxiety provoked entirely by them.

An L&G spokesman says: ‘This is not the experience that we want any of our policyholders or members to have with us.

‘While we do require certain documentation when handling an estate, and a birth certificate showing certain information may be a necessary requirement in some instances, we have clearly not looked at this case in the round. 

We recognise that we could have handled it more sympathetically without compounding clearly challenging circumstances.’

L&G contacted you when I made staff aware of the situation and arranged immediate payment of the £17,000. 

It has apologised personally to you and sent you £500 compensation and a bouquet of flowers.

You have YOUR say 

Every week Money Mail receives hundreds of your letters and emails about our stories. Here are some about the milk delivery service which will now take orders only online: 

My mum is 94 and has had to cancel her deliveries with Milk & More because she can no longer pay by direct debit. The firm obviously just wants to get rid of its elderly customers.

L.P., via email.

My husband I were in the police force for more than 40 years and milkmen often called in if a bottle had not been collected from an elderly person’s doorstep. 

With many pensioners unable to use the internet, this hidden safety service by our wonderful milkmen will no longer exist.

P. C., Norfolk.

I was shocked when I found out this company had written to customers giving them two choices — either set up an online account or leave. 

My friend has dementia and lives on his own. He can’t use a computer any more so will have to cancel his deliveries.

A.M., via email.

Some older Milk & More customers will now have to find hundreds of pounds (which they may not have) to spend on a computer. I think this amounts to age discrimination.

B. L., via email.

I am another oldie falling foul of Milk & More’s tactics. I do have a computer, but I don’t want to run my life through it. 

Fortunately, I know of a shop which sells organic milk in glass bottles, but I have to take a train to get there.

F. F., Bradford-on-Avon, Wilts.

I have been with Milk & More for more than 30 years and we have always had the same milkman, who arranged a direct debit system for me when I was forced to switch to weekly payments some time ago. 

He is also very unhappy with the new system.

P. H., via email.

 

BT engineers damaged my driveway

BT contractors came on to my property, without permission, and cut a line into my driveway. 

The contractor accepted responsibility but nothing has been done to remedy the damage. This all started in February last year. 

A neighbour advised the engineers they were on private property, but they would not tell her who they were working for and said they had to complete the task.

I had two blue lines sprayed on my drive and a line of approximately 117cm was ground into the drive surface.

R. V., St Albans, Herts.

broadband

Tony Hazell replies: YOUR full letter lists at least a dozen different attempts to resolve this with Openreach (the BT company responsible) and its contractor.

This included a letter from BT’s public liability lawyer which advised you that the sub-contractors had to indemnify you. 

The contractor did not dispute the claim but had to get authorisation to do the work. What is wrong with these people? How much did it cost BT, Openreach and the lawyers to mess you around when the simple thing was just to fix your damaged property?

The good news is that the work is now going ahead.

An Openreach spokesman blamed the problem on delays with an order for some specialist resurfacing equipment.

Openreach says that its contractor was unaware it was on private land because this had not been flagged in the build plans. Well, the engineers were certainly aware when your neighbour told them but chose to ignore this.

They will be discussing compensation directly with you.

Straight to the point 

When the catch on my oven door broke, Currys directed me to a third-party repair service, which charged a £60 call-out fee. This doesn’t seem right.

E. M., Liverpool.

Currys admitted you were given the wrong information. This is not its usual process for an out-of-warranty repair. 

A spokesman apologised and has refunded you £60, plus a £10 goodwill payment.

*** 

My Ryanair flight to Lisbon was cancelled weeks before I was due to travel in May. 

I have filled in its online form multiple times to claim a refund but this has still not been paid.

J. B, via email.

Despite explaining to Ryanair you are a 71-year-old pensioner who feels as if they’ve been pushed from pillar to post, it did not offer to contact you to see if it could help. 

Instead, it has told you to email specialassistance@ryanair.com.

*** 

Two years ago my wife and I upgraded our mobile phone contracts at an EE store in Stamford, Lincs. 

We were quoted prices that included a spare device we understood was free. But we find we are paying £13 and £15 extra a month respectively.

K. W., via email.

EE insists the monthly payments were set out in the contract you signed. When you complained, the telecoms giant offered to refund you six months of charges and closed your account immediately. 

You refused and have taken your case to the Ombudsman.

*** 

My husband has cancer and is profoundly deaf. He needs to file a tax return but can’t do it online.

I’ve been trying to get a paper form from HMRC for months, but it hasn’t responded to any of my letters.

M. B., Essex.

Your husband does not need to submit a Self Assessment return after all. His taxes are paid through Simple Assessment, so he will receive a letter from HMRC explaining how much he needs to pay. The taxman says it is sorry for not responding sooner.

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