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Most people will receive DWP benefits at some point in their lives, even if it is only State Pension, and many will receive means-tested benefits.

When somebody passes away, the DWP are notified via the Tell Us Once service when the next of kin completes the registration of death with the Registrars and by the Probate Registry when the Grant of Probate is issued.

No matter how quickly registration takes place, where payments are made in to a bank or Post Office account, they can easily continue for a period post death and such overpayments are repayable to the DWP.

In addition, the DWP are legally entitled to investigate every case where the Deceased received means-tested benefits during their lifetime and accordingly, may request details of assets and liabilities which belonged to the Deceased’s as at the date of death to compare against their own records from when the benefits claim was set up to ensure that any benefits paid out were correctly assessed.

It is worth noting that if a person moves in to a nursing home or residential care, it is important to update the DWP when this arrangement becomes permanent, as this will have a significant impact on a person’s entitlement to various benefits.

Once the DWP has compared the data, should it support each other, then no further action will be taken and a letter will be issued to confirm that the investigation has come to a conclusion.

However, if there are any discrepancies, further information such as bank statements or passbooks to cover a specific period before the person died will be demanded. If then the DWP consider that too much has been paid to the Deceased, they are entitled to reclaim this from the Estate.

All this however takes time….often a very long time.

Being an Executor of an Estate is a challenging task and Executors can easily find themselves incurring personal liability if the Estate is not administered correctly and all debts settled; and all too often DWP overpayments and their ability to investigate means tested benefits can be overlooked.

We therefore strongly advise that the safest way for Executors to protect themselves from personal liability is to be alert to potential overpayments and treat any investigation as a potential claim against the Estate and consequently, not to distribute any Estate monies until the DWP has concluded its enquiries (no matter how frustratingly long this may be) as if the Estate has already been distributed and, it is found that monies are due back then as Executor, you could be personally liable repay the amount owning.

If you have any questions or queries relating to a DWP claim, please do not hesitate to contact our private client team on 01484 821500 or via email