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F E Smith
F E Smith, Advocate
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 9802
Experience:  I have been practising for 30 years.
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My father died on the 24th August. At the time he died we

Customer Question

My father died on the 24th August. At the time he died we were estranged and he had no formally identified next of kin. We were told of his death on the 26th August by a support worker that was involved with his care before he died (The support worker is employed by her own private care company) who told me during that call that she had cancelled his bank account and advised me that although I'd been a beneficiary for his life insurance, he had missed a couple of direct debits and therefore they wouldn't be paying out. She said she had closed this down along with all his other affairs, informing them of his death. She cleared out his house and advised us that there was nothing to pass on to us other than some photographs and a teddy bear. We since found that she gave his furniture and electronics away. We have received a letter from the DWP advising that my father has overpaid benefits as they weren't informed immediately of his death. They have requested repayment from his estate but obviously he doesn't have one. However, I did call his bank to query why the benefit payments haven't been returned if the account has been shut down and the bank will not deal with me because I'm not considered his personal representative, the support worker is. Coupled with this, she ignored our wishes for the ashes which has upset my sister and I greatly. We can't query any of his affairs as her name has been used as next of kin, yet when there are debts to pay, we are receiving the letters. We feel that the support worker has over stepped the mark - particularly as I was named as the sole beneficiary for my father's life insurance, I suspect that because of this he would have wanted me to be his next of kin and personal representative. The support worker was never identified formally anywhere that she was his next of kin, she just took it upon herself to do all of this. My family are suspicious that potentially the affairs may have not been handled with integrity and without being able to discuss the position with his bank, we are concerned that we will continue to receive debt demands. I have written to the bank to advise that I need to be recognised as a personal representative from here on in and gain access to the account(s) but whether or not this request will be granted, I am not sure. She told us she had closed all the accounts / insurances and so on down within 2 days of his death when a death certificate hadn't even been issued by that point. Even today, there is only a temporary death certificate in circulation but we have not been given it. I'm just wondering where we stand legally really and any advice as to what to do from here.
Submitted: 21 days ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  F E Smith replied 21 days ago.

Hello - for clarification this care worker has taken control of everything from your fathers estate and she is not willing to share the information you require?

Customer: replied 21 days ago.
She has dealt with all his affairs and we've nothing to prove that things like bank accounts have been closed as she says they have been because now these organisations won't speak to us as they have her down as his personal representative. She has given away his belongings without any contact with us. We are concerned that there is some foul play going on as we haven't been able to speak to the bank, life insurance and so on to confirm what she is telling us. Hope that makes sense!
Customer: replied 21 days ago.
Just want to check you got my above reply? Thanks.
Expert:  F E Smith replied 21 days ago.

I apologise for the delay in getting back to you. I have had clients all day.

Forgive me for being naturally cynical but I have been involved with too many “support workers” who have committed fraudulent acts with their charges for me to be anything other than suspicious when she says that the insurance company isn’t paying out and that she is cancel the bank account. She has no right to deal with any of this.

She has no right to deal with clearing his house or anything and you need to immediately contact whoever she works for to get the situation clarified and get her to stop doing whatever she is doing and to hand over whatever paperwork she has in its entirety.

The Support worker is only a personal representative if they are named as executor in his will, but you don’t mention that. You also don’t mention who has the death certificate.

Next-of-kin is actually legally defined as the nearest blood relative although when it comes to sorting out someone’s affairs or advising someone when a person is in hospital, next of kin takes on a much wider role. It can actually just be a friend.

I think you are absolutely correct to be suspicious and I would feel very suspicious also. I’m not saying that she has done anything untoward and she may have been acting in your father’s best interest but at the moment, the sort of veil of darkness/secrecy over everything does raise some suspicions.

I don’t know whether your father had any assets to speak of (I’m leaving the life insurance apart for now) but if he didn’t, then his creditors cannot get blood out of a stone and you might want to simply give the name of the Support Worker and address (just the business address if you have it) and say that she is dealing with everything, contact her and do whatever you like but you have no money. The relatives have no liability, you have no liability and even if you got the life-insurance, there is no liability on that to pay your late father’s debts.

.Can I clarify anything else for you? I’m happy to answer any specific points arising from this.

I’m happy to answer any specific points arising from this.

Please take a moment to look at the top right hand corner of the page and rate my service by clicking one of the stars at the top of the screen. It’s important you use the rating service because that gives me credit. It doesn’t just give me a pat on the head! All you need to do is press Submit. Thank you.

If you still need any point clarifying, I will still reply because the thread does not close.

Best wishes.

FES.

Customer: replied 20 days ago.
Thanks for the above. It certainly helps to know that from a legal stand point I would be recognised as his next of kin. What would your advice be as to how to move forward? Is it a legal matter that I would need to speak with a solicitor about, or even the police? We have no death certificate or anything. I would feel far happier if I was in a position to be able to contact bank, life insurance and everything else to confirm the information she has told us is correct but she has all the details. I know his bank and his bank account number but that's all I have. If the support worker is unwilling to give me the relevant info, is it a matter for court? Just not sure how far we should take this, if at all, and what the first steps should be?
Thanks
Expert:  F E Smith replied 20 days ago.

I am glad to help. There is no legal reason why you cannot deal with this yourself but a solicitors letter will certainly get more notice taken of it.

This lady seemed to have just inserted herself in this position and I would certainly be writing to her employer and superior to tell her to leave things alone.

The banks et cetera are also going to take more notice of a solicitors letter.

If she continues to interfere, you can apply to court for an injunction to prevent her, and to let you have all the records, passwords, account numbers, et cetera et cetera.

How far you should you take this? In my opinion, as far as you can and as quickly as you can.