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Threatening my dead sister with court action.....

(30 Posts)
Anya Tue 02-Feb-16 13:40:32

My estranged sister died in September. I'd had no contact with her for years. She was alcoholic and living on a small nurses pension and state pension, in a housing association one-bed flat. I sorted out the death certificate, arranged and paid for most of her funeral, and informed her landlords, gas, electric, her carers, the council, etc.. of her death.

A month later I received a demand for £129 addressed to her, at my address, but acknowledging her as (dec'd). So I rang Sefton Council and explained, to a very rude girl, the situation. I hoped that was it sorted.

Today, out of the blue, I've just received a Warning of Enforcement threatening extra fees (amounting over £300) to to be added to the bill and that enforcement officers will call at my house (we live 120 miles away) and remove my goods angry

I've just sent Sefton MBC's Head of Corporate Finance a rather pithy email which I hope will sort this out. I hope....

What a total shambles.

jinglbellsfrocks Tue 02-Feb-16 13:45:16

Crikey! I would put it in a snail mail letter. End it registered post. And mention solicitors.

jinglbellsfrocks Tue 02-Feb-16 13:45:47

Send it. Not end it. Sorry.

Anya Tue 02-Feb-16 13:48:53

If I don't get a satisfactory response by tonight I'll take your advice jingl and do just that.

Alea Tue 02-Feb-16 13:52:08

Probate should not have been granted if were outstanding bills, and apart from the residue of rent, I find it hard to see how a bill could have been incurred after your sister's death. (Don't mean to be tactless)
One for Twitter/DM /local paper even perhaps?
Ridiculous. angry on your behalf.

granjura Tue 02-Feb-16 14:09:45

This is horrible so hope it gets sorted soon.

But here where I live, if you inherit from someone you have to decide whether to accept or not- and if you accept- take on any debts outstanding. I have a friend who thought her father was well off, accepted the will and then got stick with large debts.

But in this case, I suppose you didn't inherit anything, did you?

Smileless2012 Tue 02-Feb-16 14:13:27

But they can't do thatshockangry The bill was in your sister's name and would have had to have been settled out of her estate so should have been made known before probate was granted as Alea's said. It's not your responsibility to settle any debts she may have left.

I'd tell them this and that if they contact you again and/or send enforcement officers to your house you'll contact your solicitor.

Ana Tue 02-Feb-16 14:16:07

You don't have to apply for probate if the estate is very small, or non-existent.

annodomini Tue 02-Feb-16 14:35:39

Have a word with a local councillor to put pressure on the officers responsible.

Anya Tue 02-Feb-16 14:36:11

No estate, not enough to cover funeral expenses. No probate, I didn't want anything to do with it, but because there was no-one else I did the 'right' thing and buried her and notified those who needed to know of her death.

Jura the only thing I 'inherited' was a lot of fuss and paperwork.

This demand incidentally was for council tax. She was paying that through direct debit anyway.

M0nica Tue 02-Feb-16 15:30:23

What ever the circumstances, this is NOT your debt. If there is no money in your sister's estate to pay the council, then they will have to do without. They have no right of any kind to expect you to pay.

You and your sister did not share any aspects of your life, beyond that you CHOSE to pay the funeral bill (and that has saved them money, burials for those without the means to fund their own are paid for by the council). So they cannot make any claim on you.

Luckygirl Tue 02-Feb-16 15:51:47

Try CAB if you are getting nowhere.

janeainsworth Tue 02-Feb-16 17:43:07

I hope this is not a stupid question, but how did they get your address Anya?
Has someone breached confidentiality?

Anya Tue 02-Feb-16 18:00:45

No. Like an idiot, when I rang up Sefton Council to tell them my sister has died, they asked for my name, address and 'relationship to the deceased'.

So if anyone is in the same position, I'd advise, don't even bother to try to do ' the right thing' just leave the 'powers that be' unnotified.

I have to add, I gave the same information to the utilities, carers, housing association, etc and they've never dunned me like this.

Bagatelle Tue 02-Feb-16 18:03:26

Isn't council tax paid in advance? If so, you should get a refund.

MiniMouse Tue 02-Feb-16 18:05:50

We had a similar situation with OH's sister. She had no estate to leave, not even funeral money, so the family paid for the funeral. We phoned her local council to explain and they just cancelled her debt. We didn't even have to sign any forms! (That was ten years ago, so perhaps it's not as simple these days, but worth a try.)

Good luck smile

Eloethan Tue 02-Feb-16 18:11:06

As far as I know, relatives aren't responsible for the debts of other relatives (I think it is different for spouses). I think the debt has to be claimed against the deceased person's estate rather than a living person.

I think that usually relatively small debts like this are waived because it probably costs more than the amount of the debt to try and retrieve it.

Iam64 Tue 02-Feb-16 18:30:28

What a load of stressful nonsense Anya, like you don't have enough to manage currently. You did the right thing by your sister in many ways and it seems so unfair that you find yourself in the mids of beurocracy gone off the wall.
Yes, a proper written letter with copies to your local councillor and MP seems the way to go. I'm sure you aren't responsible for any debts left by your sister but that's little consolation isn't it.

M0nica Tue 02-Feb-16 19:19:10

It doesn't matter what your relationship with the deceased is. You are not responsible for her debts.

I think, that as with so much else, local councils will always try to get the money from someone and hope they do not realise that they have no obligation to pay.

Anya Wed 03-Feb-16 22:50:23

Not even an acknowledgement of my email, typical of too many Local Council Officers. As it was sent yesterday morning, and all these jumped up Corporate types have secretaries, it had doubtless been assigned to the 'don't bother me box'! Those who have worked in LAs will know they often appoint staff using the Peter Principle hmm

So Plan B, email my sister's local councillor and sure enough, a reply almost immediately, a request for more information and a promise to 'sort this out' along with an apology.

So hopefully a result smile .... hopefully.....

Anniebach Wed 03-Feb-16 23:01:43

When my husband died I was told I was not responsible for any bills in his name only - apart from those which were for utilities .

iaincam Thu 04-Feb-16 10:11:34

Anya, if you promised to pay any debts you may become personally liable for them, but should not otherwise even though you are the de facto personal representative.
With an insolvent estate there is a strict order in which debts must be paid, until the money runs out; secured creditors (usually a mortgage) then funeral expenses then five other defined categories in descending order of priority. Problems can arise if you pay out an "inferior" debt without enough to pay one with a better claim as you may then be personally liable.
You say there was not even enough in the estate to pay for the funeral sop presumably you did not pay off any debts? In which case inform the council you paid the debts according to The Administration of Insolvent Estates Order 1986, there is no money left for them and they can go whistle.

Anya Thu 04-Feb-16 12:54:21

Thank you Iaincam

I promised nothing. I made it very clear that there Was No Money.

I always like to have an Act of Parliament to quote, so I'll include The Administration of Insolvent Estates Order 1986 in my next email should the need arise.

Anya Fri 05-Feb-16 07:20:02

Just to wind this up.

Yesterday afternoon had a response from Sefton's Council Tax department with an acknowledgment that this should never have got this far and an apology.

Thanks for all the advice and it was the email to an elected councillor who got this sorted in the end. Worth noting for future.

Nelliemoser Fri 05-Feb-16 07:30:12

Anya that is good to hear but a lot more stress and faffing about involved for you.