Questions Of Cash: The bank is holding money due to me

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Q: I am executor of my late mother's will. I wrote to Alliance & Leicester on 8 March, enclosing a probate certificate and requesting it to close her account and transfer the balance of more than £100,000 to an executor's account with Lloyds TSB. I phoned on 19 March to check on progress and was told – after 40 minutes of being transferred between staff – it had probably not even opened my letter yet. More than a month later I phoned again and was told that the probate form was received in their office at the end of March, but nothing further had happened. I was told my call would be treated as a formal complaint and A&L promised to phone back, but did not do so. When I next phoned, I was told it had 56 days to process my complaint from the date it was registered, which had not yet been reached. I was told brusquely that when customers repeatedly phone up to complain it delays the bank dealing with others who are in the queue ahead of them. I find it unbelievable that a bank can hold on to money in this way against my wishes and instruction. VD, Lydney.

A: Alliance & Leicester accepts that while probate was registered on 31 March, your mother's account was only closed on 9 May – after we intervened on your behalf. A&L's spokesman says: "The only reasonable explanation I can offer for this delay is that the withdrawal form may have become detached from the probate document and as such was not actioned at the same time. Consequently, the withdrawal form may have been sent to another team for processing." The cheque for the account balance of £101,523.49 plus closing interest of £95.74 was dispatched to you on the day the account was closed. As we have commented previously, we are concerned about the high volume of complaints we receive about the competence of Alliance & Leicester.

Q: My Norwich Union endowment matured on 5 May this year and NU took the last payment from my account in April. But when I checked on 7 May with my mortgage lender, Derbyshire Building Society, it said my mortgage account had not been cleared because it had not received the payment from NU. My repeated attempts to resolve this with NU have got nowhere. RS, by email.

A: Norwich Union and the Derbyshire Building Society each blames the other for your problems. NU says that it should have heard from Derbyshire BS confirming the payment was required, but that the society did not reply to its letter. But a spokesman for Derbyshire said: "We can confirm that we did not receive a claim form and we have no record that Norwich Union made any attempt to contact us about this claim." It adds that it does not regard itself as being in conflict with yourself and that it was only through its efforts that the matter was resolved. You share its opinion that your problem is with NU. Following our intervention, NU has now made the payment of £50,582.60 to Derbyshire, which includes £58.40 for lost interest and £100 in compensation for your problems. You should be entitled to additional bonuses from NU on your policy later in the year.

Q: In 1990, I was a first-time buyer and was mis-sold an endowment mortgage. I later received compensation. I changed my mortgage to a repayment type and kept the endowment as a savings policy. However, I am not convinced this is a good idea. The policy runs until 2015. How can I sell an endowment policy? What are the pros and cons of doing so? CD, Scunthorpe.

A: The traded endowment policy (TEP) market is strong, after a period of weakness. Market prices are "10 to 15 per cent over surrender values", says Colin Jackson of Baronworth, an intermediary that sells endowments. Normally only policies valued at £5,000 or more have a ready market, but at present it is possible to sell endowments worth as little as £3,000. The advantage of selling is that you have the value up front and can either spend it or place it into an investment that better suits your needs, or that you have more confidence in. The downside is that the interest from the market shows that there is value in endowment policies and you risk losing out on the further accumulation of value on the policy. By cashing the endowment you lose the policy's life cover, which may be expensive or impossible to replace. You should check the cost and availability of replacing the life cover before you take steps to sell your endowment. Intermediaries that buy endowments include www.baronworth.co.uk, www.tepexchange.com and www.endowmentsurrenderplus.co.uk.

Q: Tiscali has sent me a "reminder" letter claiming £230 and threatening to send in bailiffs. But I terminated my contract with it over a year ago after a series of problems when it overcharged me and took the payments directly from my credit card. I keep writing to Tiscali from my current address, but it will only reply to me at my previous address. GA, by email

A: You tell us that as a result of our efforts on your behalf Tiscali has now contacted you to advise that it accepts that you do not owe it any money. Tiscali has failed to reply to us directly and has not responded to our request for confirmation of your report.

Q: I sent two cheques to a friend in Southend, neither of which was delivered. I am worried that someone will use the bank details to defraud my account. What should I do? CD, London.

A: You should immediately ask Royal Mail to investigate and you should cancel the cheques. We have asked Royal Mail to look into it and you have now cancelled the cheques. While it is possible that someone might try to misuse your account details for a fraudulent purpose, the same is true of anyone who legitimately has sight of your account or credit card details. The risk is slight and should be kept in perspective.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. Please do not send original documents. Write to: Questions of Cash, 'The Independent', 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; cash@independent.co.uk.

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