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Jo C.
Jo C., Barrister
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 71140
Experience:  Over 5 years in practice
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Good morning, my elderly aunt died in April 2013 and as one

Customer Question

Good morning, my elderly aunt died in April 2013 and as one of the executors of her will I have completed a probate form and obtained the Grant of Probate and eventually gathered in all the assets. I had a letter from the DWP dated 4th August which I received on the 11th August, stating that it may be my aunt had been paid some benefits that she was not entitled to - they enclosed a form for me to complete re the assets. This I did and sent the form back to them on the 22nd August. Also in the letter was a paragraph stating "We will let you know whether or not we need to make further enquiries within 20 working days." I then received a further letter dated the 2nd September stating that they had not received the asset form, I immediately telephoned the office and one of the employees said that they had had a backlog of work which they were now catching up on and I should disregard the letter. On the 6th October I sent them a letter saying that as I had not heard anything from them I would be distributing the estate and this I did on the 19th October. To my astonishment and outrage I then had a letter dated 22nd October received by me on the 28th October stating that they wanted further information! I have written again to them telling them that the estate has been distributed and much of the paperwork had been shredded. I spoke to my solicitor about this matter and was advised to contact the Ombudsman as the whole situation has now taken on the mantle of a West End farce! I hope you can help me with this. Many thanks, XXXXX
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.

Thank you for your question. My name is Jo and I will try to help with this.

How can I help with this please?
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

My solicitor has told me that the DWP cannot make me repay any money as they clearly stated they would advise me within 20 working days but did not reply for 7 weeks - what am I to do?

Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
Thanks. Sorry for the delay.

It was not a good idea to shred any paperwork and I am afraid that defence would not work. Solicitors keep these files for six years, at least, and if you are shredded vital evidence, and there is a dispute with beneficiaries, for example, you may have lost the proof.

Your solicitor must be aware of something which I am not because in my experience, over payment of benefits or pension is money paid by the government to a deceased person and government money is not governed by any limitation act or timescale for repayment.

It is exactly the same with council tax etc, you can actually be jailed for non-payment of council tax, whereas you cannot be jailed for any other money you owe to private individuals. Money owed to private individuals is no longer enforceable in court after six years under the Limitation Act 1986, but that does not apply to money owed to the government.

At the moment with the delays with the benefits agency, you would be lucky to get a reply in 20 days in any event.

I would ask your solicitor if he can absolutely guarantee that if you do not pay this money, they can take no proceedings against you and ask him to confirm that if the benefits agency or pension department does take action against you, he will deal with those proceedings.

You might be surprised by the answer.

I think it would be a good idea to make provision to get the money back from the beneficiaries in proportion, in order to repay the overpayment, just in case you do get taken to court.

Can I clarify anything for you?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

For Jo C


As their first letter clearly stated .........20 working days..........why I am to assume that some 7 weeks later they will want further information? They should surely update their letter if you say I would be lucky to hear in 20 days!! I am not a solicitor and therefore did not realise that I should not have shredded the paperwork - I tried to stay within the law but obviously the DWP is a law unto itself.


Thank you



Expert:  Jo C. replied 4 years ago.
As I've said, I would ask the solicitor his views upon this.

I certainly agree they should probably change their letters.