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Stuart J
Stuart J, Property Solicitor
Category: Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 26470
Experience:  Senior Partner at Berkson Wallace
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For Stuart J and Stuart J only. Other experts please leave alone: With regards ***** ***** late father's property, since I am abroad in Italy, and all utility bills were in his name, I have nothing from last six months for ID evidence. How do I get a new electricity account for the flat, which I am now full owner of? I have other questions related to previously discussed matters, but we can start with this. Thank you.

Hello again.

I apologise if I am delayed getting back to you for the rest of Friday and over the weekend because I am only online and off-line sporadically at weekends. Nonetheless, I am online at some time every day.

Legally, getting the accounts in your name should be straightforward. You contact the utility company and give them a copy of the title deed in your name (if they ask for it) and they should open an account.

As simple as that. In fact, they shouldn’t really need the title deeds in your name because you were renting the property for example, they wouldn’t be in your name. They wouldn’t normally ask for the tenancy agreement. The reason for this is that they are not generally unduly bothered if people are volunteering to pay a bill which is what you would be doing by having utilities in your name.

In respect of your late father, all they should need is the death certificate.

If the utility company want some kind of ID which you don’t have, you need to explain to them that you don’t have that and why and ask them what they would find acceptable. They may accept a letter from a solicitor such as the one that dealt with your late father’s estate or they may accept a statutory declaration from you.

Otherwise I’m not certain what the problem is.

Customer: replied 12 days ago.
Thank you. This was just one question. Your answer helps a lot.The next thing is, is there any time limit by which you should notify a utility company of someone's death, and is there any penalty for not doing so by that time?

I am glad to help.

All the utility companies are bothered about is whether they get paid. I have known people continue to pay bills in the name of someone who has died, for years.

Not a good plan, but don’t worry about a few months

Customer: replied 12 days ago.
Thank you, ***** ***** have passed and I did not admit it to them. BECAUSE, I was afraid that once I did, they would shut the account down (which they do), and then offer to open one in my name... and then I would have an issue if I could not show two forms of address ID, which I cannot since I am resident in Italy and all utility bills were in his name. Likewise, on the telephone, there is a CCTV system installed in the flat, and if I told them and the same thing happened, that would be the end of monitoring the flat remotely.So, your answer helps greatly. it is a huge relief that I am not looking at a financial penalty or jail time!
Customer: replied 12 days ago.
Actually, I did notify the electricity company online, but when they asked me for the death certificate etc., I did not reply at all for the above reasons. But, "technically", I have informed them.)

I cannot see any financial penalty because you haven’t actually done anything which is illegal and absolutely definitely 100% not anything that would result in a custodial sentence. To be honest as I said earlier, I think they’re unlikely to be bothered as long as they get paid.

Customer: replied 12 days ago.
Thank you. I was kind of kidding in that sentence, but useful to know for real that neither is the case.So, the next related thing is this. As I mentioned to you in a previous session, I held a joint bank account with my father up to the time of his death, and I have not mentioned the death to them yet. You stated that there was no legal obligation to do so on a joint account. Anyway, I am the sole beneficiary of his will and executor.The reason I have not done so is because, courtesy of an administrative IT error of theirs, they messed up the security protocols on my online ID at the time it was being set up, during our appointment at the branch. Hence, we were asked if it was okay if I use my father's instead. Since he was in his late eighties at the time and did not have ability to do online banking (no need either as he simply goes to the branch), and since the address is the same, he was fine with me using his online ID and told the person so. Now, in the current scenario with me in Italy and with all the international travel chaos, I realised that once I notify them of my father's death, they will close his account, and that would include my online access. They would then say that all I need to do is "pop into the branch sometime" to get it all sorted out, little knowing that this would involve an international flight and so on.Anyway, the question is this. There is some sort of insurance policy from Lloyds still active in my father's name as well. I imagine it might be the building insurance. Again, due to all of the above, I have not cancelled it nor told them. I was concerned that it was set up through the bank itself, in branch. Hence, if I told them, they would tell the bank.Again, is it an illegal act not to have cancelled this policy right away? As just explained, the reason has nothing to do with the policy, but with the bank.This entire situation with Lloyds has been a pain in the backside. You know, I could not even notify the Post Office of the death, because they notify the bank! This one error (of THEIRS) has spun out in all sorts of directions for me. And the other thing is, because I am not resident in UK, they might actually shut the account down altogether if they found out (even though you confirmed that it is not illegal for a non-resident to have a high street bank account, but Lloyds do not allow it!)
Customer: replied 12 days ago.
I should clarify that I would not attempt to make a claim on this policy, e.g. pretending to be my father or something. I am just wary of cancelling it for the reasons given.
Customer: replied 12 days ago.
This leads me to ask the next thing as well: can I run a second buildings insurance policy at the same time as the existing one i.e. one that I would actually claim on if need be? Apart from it being common sense to have one, the freeholder once informed me that buildings insurance was a mandatory condition of the lease?...

You can have as many policies as you like on the property but it’s normal that you have to declare, when you apply for insurance, that there is no other insurance which case you can’t.

If you breach that you have a claim, then you would have to claim on both policies and they would pay out half each or in proportion, depending on the sums assured.

It’s not something I would recommend.

If the account is joint names and your father passes away, then it comes automatically to you. However some banks can be remarkably awkward so my advice to you would be to take the money out of the account before you tell them and close it.

In respect of buildings insurance being mandatory. Usually it’s arranged by the landlord/management company and they charge it back to the tenant through the service charge.

Customer: replied 12 days ago.
34;...so my advice to you would be to take the money out of the account before you tell them and close it." We think alike! I have already been doing precisely that prior to telling them someday! It's so bad that I have been driven to this nonsense.Interesting. The freeholder seemed pretty specific that it was down to us to get the building insurance. I suppose I will have to just go head and tell the bank eventually, close the policy down, and start up a new one.Again, there was the fear that I might not be able to open a new policy at all if I did not have two forms of address ID to that property. Again, is that something to be concerned about?

Whether it’s down to you to get the buildings insurance or not depends on the terms of the lease.

To be frank, I have never been asked for ID yet when taking out insurance.

Customer: replied 12 days ago.
I may be overthinking everything. It's not the first time. But often, if you open your mouth, or do something without thinking first, you can't undo it.On another matter related to the property, as you may recall, I have now submitted IHT205. I strictly did not need to as I did not apply for probate and both property and bank account were joint, with low value personal possessions.So, I received an estate agent market valuation of £150K from one, £150-170K from another (both within one minute from the flat), and £225K from a third. I entered £150K into the IHT205 and included a copy of the estate agent email. This put the estate at below £325K i.e. excepted. Actually, I was thinking that the high valuation was just to get my business, and then the price would be dropped a few weeks later.Later, I asked for more valuations. One came in at £100k(!), and the other at £250K without lease extension and £370K with it. I rang the latter and he sincerely ***** ***** it can be sold at these prices. Hence, there is now a real motive to get the lease extension.The problem is that I quoted £150K on the IHT205 to the Inland Revenue. Someday, I may potentially sell this for as much as £370K!Is that going to be a problem that needs reporting and paying inheritance tax on? Or, as I have been thinking, (a) once the lease is extended AND this (b) leads to whole new classes of buyers (currently cash buyers only with 34-year lease) and (c) the flat is modernised, can it not be argued that this is now a whole different entity, bearing no resemblance to the flat reported at £150K? Or can they still challenge somehow?

What is relevant is the price/value at the date of death in without a lease extension it’s the lower price. The fact that there may be potential for this and potential for that and you can do all sorts to it, is not actually relevant. It’s the state it was at the date of death.

Stuart J and other Property Law Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 12 days ago.
That's interesting. So, what you are saying is that they can only compare what was there at time of death with the same thing selling sometime later i.e. like with like. In other words, if it is stated as £150K in the IHT form, but the exact same item without modification later sells for £200K, then they would want their chunk, and maybe retrospectively claim that the estate was never excepted in the first place.In that case, if various major changes are made as suggested, this implies they cannot really make the same argument and it would have to go uncontested.I suppose the only issue is where this recent estate agent feels that he can sell it for £250K, without lease extension. If that happened, there would definitely be an issue. That would seem to then imply that it is prudent to make all those changes, and thereby camouflage any additional value over and above that stated in the IHT form.

What I am saying is that if it is valued by a proper qualified valuer GBP150,000 and then later sold for GBP200,000, nobody can point the finger for you at you. It is possible that you may be called to justify it but you can simply point to the 2 valuations until the revenue to take it up with them.

Customer: replied 12 days ago.
I think I have to get a surveyor to go and do it, not least of all for the lease extension.As regards ***** ***** IHT205 I submitted, I shall leave it has it is. After all, I now have three valuations from three estate agents in the £100-170K region. So, nobody can say that I falsified it.Whatever the surveyor/valuer says, I shall not pass it on until asked. After all, statistics reveal that 92% of all inheritance tax forms submitted are not even looked at in the first place! And those are the ones that needed to be submitted, and mine did not since I did not apply for probate etc.By the way, an insightful online article yesterday suggested that many people are paying too much inheritance tax, based on (a) having to pay within six months, (b) estate agent valuations of property (bet when the- property is sold, it fetches much less)

For the IHT form, ignore the lease extension. All that affects is the value and with no lease extension, the value is obviously greatly reduced.

With three valuations you have as much evidence as you are going to need.

Inheritance tax forms are like self-assessment. The revenue trust you and they only look at them randomly.

Customer: replied 11 days ago.
By the way, I now have the draft decision by the Social Services Ombudsman. It is a total whitewash from start to finish. In response to a 22-page complaint supported by, this loser's response is that he is going to recommend that the council apologise to me for failing to respond to my requests to allocate another social worker! That's it.I think you previously mentioned that these investigators are never going to find anything significantly different than the in-house so-called "Complaints Investigation Officer," because it would make the latter look like an incompetent idiot. So it has proved to be.He told me in his letter not to discuss his decision anywhere. But it is such a piece of garbage that I have no respect for, and I didn't sign anything to say I wouldn't, that I have no problem sharing this with you, at least.This is a disgusting result. There is clearly no proper path to get wrongs addresses in this system than legal action. And we all know that even that is going to be fatally flawed. Social workers are nothing, if not covering their own offensively stinking rear orifices.
Customer: replied 11 days ago.
34;I propose completing my investigation on the basis there has been no fault by the Council causing injustice which warrants a remedy."
Customer: replied 11 days ago.
As a friend of mine who is a medical negligence specialist solicitor said, the way complaints work is that they will find some utterly unimportant thing to apologise profusely about, and let all other crimes go unpunished.

I couldn't of summed it up better than your friend. Appeals processes work exactly the same way. They never want to screw their mates over. They will find something minor to agree to and apologise profusely and usually there will be "more training"..

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
I am going to suggest that he requests that the Council to engrave the apology onto a long, sharp, rusty, disease-ridden metal rod, and that this then be shoved deep up the dark odious orifice from which they do all of their talking, and that it be left there for a long period of time to do its noble work.What do you think?

I couldn’t agree more. However I wouldn’t let just them have the benefit of the treatment. I just think of lots of deserving parties

Customer: replied 6 days ago.
I sent some comments on his proposed final decision; not complimentary ones. The loser rushed to complete his final decision and mailed it out faster than I could breath. I am still going to send in a version of the above, and also state that I do not want their apology. I'll be writing a letter to tell him what I think of him and his decision. I'll send it to you in due course, for your amusement.Anyway, regarding the buildings insurance question earlier in this thread, I logged into the bank today and managed to find the details. I attach them as a screenshot. As you can see, it turns out that it is in BOTH names, but it is a Lloyds Bank building insurance policy.Does this mean that (a) I can terminate it without my (late) father being involved, or (b) have them simply remove his name, but WITHOUT telling them he has died (I doubt it)?

If it’s a joint policy then you need to notify and send the death certificate or they would want both to notify to either remove your late father’s name or cancel.

Customer: replied 6 days ago.
that's the issue. Thank you for this. It may be that I will not need that account much longer since, as discussed, I am progressively removing the funds to another bank account in my own name only. I might leave a nominal amount in it before I tell the bank about his passing.This whole thing is only about my online access from Italy, nothing more, which is their error to begin with. Anyway, thank you for letting me know this.BUT, does this mean that the policy now remains valid in the case of a claim i.e. I could make it without my father's signature being involved?

I am glad to help. In the event of a claim you would need to obviously put the claim in yourself and then attach your father’s death certificate. Alternatively, to prevent any aggravation brief delay in the future, I would be inclined to send the certificate now and ask them to remove his name and to leave it in your sole name.

Customer: replied 6 days ago.
I see. So, it remains a valid policy. So, the building IS covered by insurance, as per the terms of the lease.Should I ever need to make a claim, then that is when the death absolutely must be declared. At least this saves me having to open a new policy as previously discussed.I plan to modernise the flat with a view to a sale. Hence, it definitely needs building insurance coverage. However, if all of the above is true, then it is not really worth opening a new policy just for a few months, if this one already cover the place. That would be my immediate reaction to this information.

Do remember that I can only give you my opinion.

Another lawyer may have a different opinion. Litigation needs at least 2 parties and neither goes to court expecting to lose.

Nonetheless, one of them does, even though they have been told by their respective legal advisers that they have a good chance of success.

If there was a black-and-white answer to every legal problem there would be no need for anything to ever proceed to court.

Yes, in my opinion it is covered except to say that if it’s vacant for more than 30 days, then it isn’t covered because that’s the normal terms of the policy. You would need an empty building policy which covers very few risks.

Customer: replied 6 days ago.
that is fine.Oh, that's very important news. So, it is not covered after all, in any way at all.Do you happen to know if an empty building policy, because it covers fewer risks, costs less?

The cost is usually not much different. It does cover less risks but does involve higher risk albeit less of them.

The policies are common when someone has died on the estate is waiting for probate before the property can be sold.

I would probably start with the existing insurer. Explain the circumstances and see what they say.

Customer: replied 6 days ago.
Thank you very much. Very helpful.Yes, the time is close to come clean about it. The funds are almost transferred away by now, and there is little reason to retain that bank account anyway, especially as they apparently don't want international account holders.

Noted with thanks. A good plan.

Customer: replied 6 days ago.
I have been kind of fortunate. That flat has been empty since May 22 2020. I am looking into empty building policies. So, thank you.
Customer: replied 6 days ago.
Come to think of it, I just realised in typing the above that in three days time, it will be the two-year anniversary of my father being removed from that flat by ambulance, and never returning.)

Pleasure to help.

Time goes so quickly. Tempus Fugit

Customer: replied 3 days ago.
Just a quick follow-up on the empty building insurance matter. The flat is an upper floor maisonette, and the flat below is always inhabited. Does that nevertheless still mean that I need "empty building" insurance on this flat instead of just the usual kind?
Customer: replied 3 days ago.
It's ok. Looks like the answer is yes, from articles online that discuss it.

The answer is yes

Customer: replied 8 hours ago.
Thank you. I have just asked a new question for you.

Thank you. I will go and have a look.