Beware – The DWP Can Recover Benefit Overpayments From An Estate
When someone dies it’s the executor’s responsibility to distribute the estate in accordance with the terms of the deceased’s will. During the process, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) may write to the executor requesting details of the deceased’s assets and liabilities.
As a matter of course, it may take time for pension payments (including pension credit and other benefits) to stop after someone dies. However, the DWP has the right not only to take any recent benefit overpayment back (which is not unreasonable), but also to investigate whether the deceased has received payments they were not entitled in the past.
Usually, a letter from the DWP is sent to the executor because the deceased was receiving a means tested benefit, such as pension credit. However, it is not at all uncommon for the DWP not to get in touch. Reports of inefficiencies are all too familiar.
What recovery rights does the DWP have over an estate (RFE)?
The DWP has the right to investigate whether the deceased had made an incorrect statement during their lifetime. They can recalculate whether the deceased should have been entitled to receive benefits, if they had received correct amount or any benefits at all.
The DWP can ask the executor to provide detailed financial information. This will include bank statements and savings accounts. They can request information as far back as 12 years. Once they have made their initial assessment they also has the right to request further information if they need clarification.
Even if the mistake was genuine, the DWP will try to recover all sums paid in error from the estate. Further information is available here.
What is the process for obtaining DWP clearance?
As an executor, it is your responsibility to send the DWP a full list of the assets and liabilities as at the date of death. This needs to be done swiftly and as accurately as possible.
Due to the well reported backlog, this process can be very lengthy. Something that should take 3 months to conclude, can take over a year. Naturally, this can be extremely frustrating.
Executor’s personal responsibility
Understandably, beneficiaries may struggle to understand the delay and press for distribution. However, be warned, failure to disclose information to the DWP or obtain clearance from them will mean that any repayment liability will fall upon the executor. The executor is personally liable for any repayment.
If the executor has already distributed the estate to the beneficiaries, it remains the executor’s personal responsibility to recover the money.
This may not always be possible.
However, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. Following a complaint by a solicitor from Hull, the DWP has recently promised to review the process. Read more.
If you have any queries or issues you’d like to discuss please contact us, we’re here to help.
Please note that all views, comments or opinions expressed are for information only and do not constitute and should not be interpreted as being comprehensive or as giving legal advice. No one should seek to rely or act upon, or refrain from acting upon, the views, comments or opinions expressed herein without first obtaining specialist, professional or independent advice. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, Curtis Parkinson cannot be held liable for any errors, omissions or inaccuracies.