The recent case of Christine Angell has highlighted the importance of proper estate planning where beneficiaries are in receipt of benefits.
Christine Angell, a 61 year old lady from Cardiff had inherited large sums of money from her deceased brother and deceased partner. On 13 April 2012 she received £40,000, followed by another £20,000 then £15,000 a month later. In December the following year £50,000 was deposited in her account followed by another £47,000, over £170,000 in total. In addition to the large lump sums, she was also receiving regular monthly payments of about £1,000 and sometimes as much as £3,750 from her brother’s assets in Switzerland.
While Christine Angell had these large amounts of money from her inheritance, she failed to declare them to the Department for Works and Pensions and also fraudulently claimed around £50,000 in housing benefits and employment and support allowance. When interviewed in June last year, she accepted that she had inherited the money but claimed that she did not believe she had to declare the amounts as they were ‘gifts’.
This however is not the case and as she had the money effectively hidden between her bank accounts she should have declared the change in her circumstances to the Department for Work and Pensions. Benefits are paid on the basis that you will inform the Department for Works and Pensions as soon as your circumstances change. Not only did she fail to inform them, she made false statements on review.
Christine Angell did not live a lavish lifestyle, but did spend large amounts taking the family to Disneyland and there was a further holiday to Orlando. The money is now depleted. She has now been found guilty of fraud and is facing the possibility of a 10 month custodial sentence. She is currently on bail awaiting sentencing. The money to be paid back will also be deducted from her future benefits.
Had Christine Angell’s brother and partner sought proper legal advice before they died and had Wills in place in consideration of her needs, this set of unfortunate circumstances could have been avoided. With good legal advice and simple planning the needs of those you leave behind can be looked after giving you peace of mind.
How we can help
IMPORTANT: IF YOU HAVE ALREADY INHERITED OR ARE ABOUT TO AND ARE IN RECEIPT OF BENEFITS , WE CAN NOT ASSIST YOU AND YOU SHOULD CONTACT THE DWP.
If however, you are at the planning stages of your Will and you have a relative/potential beneficiary who is in receipt of benefits then we can assist. Contact our Wills, Probate & Planning for the Future department to discuss how one of our team of experts can help guide you through this process.
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.