Questions Of Cash: Why can't we get our pension income paid?

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Q. My wife and I, both 70, need our pension, which we have been waiting for since 2003. My self-invested personal pension (SIPP) was with Provident Life and was transferred to Winterthur Life, which became my policy's administrator. More than £130,000 should have been transferred to my pension manager. Charges are still being deducted by Winterthur from the value of my funds.
TA, Moray

A. Winterthur says it has been ready for three years to transfer the value of your fund to your nominated pension manager. But it says you have refused to authorise the switch because you disagree with the total value that Winterthur has put on your pension funds.

Winterthur suggests that your belief that the value it holds is too small is based on a misunderstanding. If you add together the value of the non-protected rights element that it holds and the protected rights element which it transferred three years ago, the company says this adds up to approximately your calculation of the value of your funds, after allowing for recent falls in investment values.

However, while Winterthur argues that it has made many attempts to resolve this problem, it is offering to pay you £500 "in acknowledgement of the time he has spent attempting to bring the matter to a resolution".

If you still believe Winterthur is undervaluing your fund, approach The Pensions Advisory Service (0845 601 2923), which offers independent advice. To pursue a claim against Winterthur, contact the Pensions Ombudsman (020-7630 2250).

Q. OneTel has completely ignored my requests for information about why I continue to receive invoices from BT, even though my telephone contract is now with OneTel. BT tells me it is because there are times when the OneTel network is busy - it says some calls are redirected to it. I believe I have therefore paid £21.46 too much.
AS, London

A. Your line rental account stayed with BT, so BT continued to bill you for your line. The rental service has now been transferred to BT, which should resolve the problem.

However, in addition, you used some BT services - such as the speaking clock - which generated non-line rental charges. OneTel has now told you how to disconnect a dialler box attached to a phone socket, which may have caused some calls to be routed through BT. OneTel has credited your account with £10 as a gesture of goodwill.

Q. When I complained about endowment mis-selling, the insurer advised that I could go to the Financial Ombudsman Service. But when I went to the ombudsman the insurer argued I was time-barred. It appears this is permitted by the ombudsman, and seems to me a breach of natural justice.
JB, by e-mail

A. The Financial Ombudsman discourages companies from themselves determining whether a consumer is time-barred from lodging a complaint. Advising a customer that they can take their case to the ombudsman does not prejudice that company's right to then argue to the ombudsman that the case is out of time.

Q. In March 2002, my partner and I bought a property with a Scottish Widows 100 per cent, five-year, fixed-rate mortgage, through our independent financial adviser. The following year our IFA suggested we made an annual overpayment of up to 10 per cent, which SW confirmed in writing we could do without penalty.

On the day I was making the payment in March, Scottish Widows told me this would incur charges. When I complained, SW agreed to let me do this on a one-off basis only. We wanted to make a similar payment next year, but want to know where we stand.
GD, by e-mail

A. Scottish Widows has confirmed that under the terms of your contract, early repayments are subject to a 3 per cent charge, which would have been £900 on the overpayment you made in March. Despite the letter misinforming you of the situation, Scottish Widows is not prepared to waive the charge for any subsequent overpayments. The written error would appear not to be binding on SW, as it was sent after the contract was agreed and does not affect the terms.

Q. Some 20 years ago my partner and I bought a property in France. We both paid for it but put it in one name - his. If my partner dies before me, according to French law, the house would go to his family, irrespective of our wills saying we want to leave everything to each other.

I have been advised to ask a French solicitor to draw up a contract stating that my partner will remain the owner, but under which I become co-owner. The cost of this contract would be about €36,000 (£25,352) based on the current property value. If I register before the end of this year I will be given a 50 per cent discount, but €18,000 (£12,676) is still a lot to pay for something I already half paid for.

Will the Civil Partnership Bill recognising same-sex couples, which becomes UK law in December, help?
JV, York

A. Saul Brownstein of solicitors Sykes Anderson says: "Upon your partner's death the property will indeed pass, at least partly, to his reserved heirs; any children, parents and surviving spouse - regardless of any will.

The property might on purchase have been registered in joint names, either en indivision or en tontine. In the former case, each indivisaire's half is treated independently from the other's, and the reserve still applies to each individual share, so the aim of leaving everything to each other would remain unachieved.

In the latter case, the survivor ends up with the whole property, but such a clause can be inserted only at the time of purchase, and there are serious French inheritance tax (droits de succession) implications to be considered.

While a gift would attract significant gift tax, despite the "discount", your partner could sell half the property to you.

This would not attract French capital gains tax (CGT) as he has owned it for more than 15 years, nor UK CGT once you became civil partners (treated like spouses for tax purposes).

It would attract ad valorem French stamp duty and notarial conveyancing fees. Funds would have to change hands, but this could possibly be balanced by a UK gift - which is not taxable between civil partners. A tontine clause might be added at this time.

My preferred option would be to leave the French situation as it is and instead vary your UK arrangements. But action should be undertaken only following a professional review of your position.

It is not yet clear how French law will regard UK civil partnerships as France's own model, the PACS, differs fundamentally. There is no reason to believe that it will alter succession rights over French land."

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