Consmer Rights: Don't add to the grief of a bereavement
Always leave a will to make things easier for loved ones and beware of scammers
Saturday 22 February 2014
Some of the most heartbreaking cases I have come across in my 20 years helping British consumers relate to after a death. You may think that you will have space to deal with your loss but sadly all too often the bereaved become the target for scammers. So when coping with the loss of a loved one it is essential for you and those around you to be on guard and get the right help.
When a person dies somebody has to deal with their estate (money, property and possessions left). All the money has to be collected in from the different accounts, pensions or investments such as premium bonds or stocks and shares. Property may have to be sold. Debts have to be paid; income tax or VAT paid to Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, businesses paid for work done or items bought. Benefits may have to be stopped.
Once all the assets have been added up and the debts, including the costs of the funeral, paid there may be inheritance tax to pay and the remainder has to be handed over to the person or people who are entitled to it.
A well-made will makes life easier for everyone involved. It will contain details of who is to be left what (the beneficiaries) and who is to be the executor(s), responsible for carrying out the instructions in the will. If the amounts of money involved are very small, and there's no property to sell off, banks or building societies may be prepared to hand over any money in accounts to the executor with just a copy of the will as proof. If the dead person's affairs are more complicated, the executor will need to get probate. Probate is the court's authority, given to the executor, to administer the deceased person's estate. The document you get when you apply for probate issued by the Probate Service is called a grant of representation. This document is proof to show the various account or asset holders (banks, building societies, investment fund managers, pension or insurance companies) that you are the person authorised to sort out the estate and to whom any assets should be released.
There are people making a living scamming others into thinking they may have been left money when they haven't. The lottery ("you have won a prize") scams have stopped being so successful because people have been warned about them, so scammers have moved on to probate scams. You may get an email claiming to be from a research specialist or an estate locator and that you have been left some money. Or they may say they have a report that shows that you are likely to be due an inheritance and for a fee you can have the report and help to claim the inheritance.
The scammer will have sent emails to thousands of people with the same name hoping that a few will believe the scam. Once you're hooked by the lure of the cash, you'll be asked to send money for fees or taxes before you can get your inheritance. That should set the alarm bells ringing. If you've genuinely been left money you won't have fees to pay. These kinds of emails will always be fraudulent. Don't reply to them and don't send any money or personal details. Information can be used to steal your identity or money. You can find out more on www.met.police.uk/fraudalert. You'll also find details of how to report these scams to the police.
Genuine and professional probate researchers and heir hunters don't make contact by email. They phone, write or visit and will have some form of identification.
If you are thinking of making a will to make things easier for loved ones, do it now. You can make your own will if you have a very straightforward estate. However, if there are any possible complications it can save money in the long run to have the will drawn up by an experienced solicitor.
Choosing executors is another potential minefield. If can be stressful and even family members on the best of terms can fall out over a will. You can appoint a professional – solicitor, accountant, bank manager – someone who understands tax, inheritance and property.
Be wary of will writers who insist you should use them as executors. You can use who you like.
How can I switch energy suppliers to avoid bills hike?
Q: I've been paying for my electricity and gas on a dual-fuel fixed-rate deal for almost two years and I know it's coming to an end soon. I'm worried that my bills will go up as it's already a struggle to pay out of my pension. I've had the same supplier for years and my son keeps telling me I should switch. I haven't done it before and don't understand how to go about it. Is it worth switching and how do I decide who to switch to? SK
A: It's hard to get your head around all the tariffs. However, once you've switched, saved some money and seen how easy it is you could become a regular switcher. Don't allow yourself to be talked into going with any company until you've done your research.
Your bills could soon go up by around £200. There are about 20 tariffs from the big suppliers ending in April. Check your contract to see whether you would have to pay a penalty if you switched before the deal ends. Then work out when is best to switch: it can take six weeks to switch to a new supplier. If you're on the internet look at comparison sites such as moneysupermarket.com. Smaller firms may offer better deals.
Which?, the consumer organisation, does a guide to switching at http://www.which.co.uk/switch/energy-advice/guide-to-switching-supplier. They explain all you need to know. If you aren't on the internet, ask your son to help you.
Independent Partners; request a free guide on NISAs from Hargreaves Lansdown
New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain
By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen
New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning
Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy
10 tips for taking out a personal loan
Santander's new current account is not quite as easy as 1, 2, 3
Weekly Money: Round-up of the personal finance stories you may have missed 13-17 October
Bank-beating exchange rates on your international payments
Simon Read: Payday loans that are marketed at kids? Why not? They're already brainwashed into wanting products
- 1 Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
- 2 Topshop at centre of row over body image as 'shocking' skinny mannequin photo goes viral
- 3 Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson criticised for beer tweet
- 4 The bubble bursts for Sodastream
- 5 If you think Russell Brand’s new book is confused, you should read what his critics have to say about it
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Maureen Lipman says 'she can't vote Labour while Ed Miliband is leader'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything
iJobs Money & Business
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...
£20000 - £23250 Per Annum pro rata: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pro rata ...
£40 - 48k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Manager to join...
Day In a Page
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
A three-bedroom, 15th-century cottage with original features in the picturesque village of Sissinghurst
A six-bedroom terraced house with large south-facing roof terrace, cinema room and wine cellar
A new seven-bedroom home built in Queen Anne-style with swimming pool and parkland views in Mortimer
A listed, four-bedroom farmhouse in the rural hamlet of Rushall with detached barn, four acres of gardens and paddocks
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000