ASK TONY: Bank chased us for our late daughter's £11k car debt

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Our daughter unexpectedly died in August, aged 43, leaving two children, 17 and 14 and – despite having a well-paid job — lots of debts, which we are trying to sort out.

She and her husband were separated and their decree absolute would have been through in September.

She had a lazy boyfriend who didn’t work. He had two children and persuaded her to buy a seven-seater SUV so they could all go out together (they never did). He loved to pose in this car and drive it although he hadn’t passed his test.

The car was bought on a four-year loan with Santander Consumer Finance. It cost £496.18 per month with a final payment of £14,675.78 payable at the end.

Demands: A couple have got themselves £30,000 in debt struggling to sort out the estate of their daughter after her sudden death

Demands: A couple have got themselves £30,000 in debt struggling to sort out the estate of their daughter after her sudden death 

She had paid off about 12 months of instalments. When she died, we ended the agreement and the car was taken away for auction.

We then received a letter saying that her estate needs to pay £11,284.41 for the early termination of the agreement.

We have written to Santander explaining that there is no money in her account. Her only ‘estate’ is her share of the family home, where her husband is now living, taking care of the children, the younger of whom is disabled.

He will be selling the house after Christmas and buying a smaller one, but this is problematic as her creditors will all want a share of the proceeds.

We took out £15,000 of loans to get her out of some debts three weeks before she died and are ourselves in debt for £30,000.

J. H., Warrington, Lancs.

Tony Hazell replies: Christmas for many means fun and frivolous spending but for others can be the time when debt worries become overwhelming. 

You and any others with problems should contact the debt advice charity Step-Change (stepchange.org).

Santander has confirmed to me that it will not be chasing any debt.

The £11,284 was based on the original outstanding loan. Once the car was sold at auction there was £4,035 left to pay.

But after confirming there is no estate, aside from her share of the family house, Santander has now written this off.

A spokesman says: ‘We are sorry to hear about the passing of Mrs H. and send our condolences to her family.’

broadband

The bank had already confirmed to you that you were not personally liable for any debt.

This is a vital point. It is the estate of the deceased person that is liable for debts and not their kin.

If there is no estate, then the debt dies with the person.

Any debt collection firm which tried to bully you into paying from your own resources would be breaking the law.

The issue with the house is complex and will depend on how it was owned with her husband, the equity in it and whether any debts are secured against it.

This is why I suggested you speak to StepChange for personal help.

It is the role of executors to arrange payments, but there is a clear order in which debts must be paid — and that is not just to the firm which shouts the loudest.

National Debtline, a debt advice charity run by the Money Advice Trust, has an excellent fact sheet called ‘Debts after death’.

You can find it at national debtline.org.

You have YOUR say

Every week Money Mail receives hundreds of your letters and emails about our stories. 

Here are some about in response to our article by an expert in how to complain.

Never complain by phone, always write an email or a letter. That way there is a tangible record to take to a small claims court if necessary. 

Why waste your time on hold trying to speak to someone in a call centre?

R. A., London.

A client who worked at a large electric retailer told me never to buy the extended warranty. 

If something is going to go wrong, it will do so in the first year. If it doesn’t, the appliance should have a normal lifespan.

J. S., Neath, Wales.

My wife and I are very similar to the gentleman in your article; we used to just accept things. 

But then we decided to stop companies get away with letting us down. We are actually on first-name terms with our local trading standards office.

T. H., Edinburgh.

I always ask for the name of the person I’m speaking to when I ring a call centre to complain.

I then tell them I will be initiating proceedings through the small claims court. My complaints are usually settled within hours.

B. O., Wales.

 

Plusnet won’t talk after power of attorney mix-up 

Two people, unknown to me, registered a Power of Attorney (POA) on my Plusnet account. Plusnet is now refusing to take any instructions from me.

The telecoms firm emailed in November to say the POA had been authorised.

Then it emailed again to say there was an issue on my account. I phoned the next day but was told it could not speak to me because of the POA.

M. H., South Shields.

Tony Hazell replies: You were initially contacted by a senior services team member who assured you there had not been a data breach. 

You then received a follow-up letter where they got your first name wrong — leading you to assume, quite reasonably, that something was still wrong with your account.

I asked Plusnet to take a closer look and can confirm that everything is now in order.

The POA has now been applied to a different customer, who shares your name.

I understand your concern that such an error can happen. Plusnet has paid you £100 as a goodwill gesture. 

Straight to the point 

I tried to cancel my M&S credit card last summer, but was told this was not possible while my account was in credit.

Eventually I received a letter confirming it had been cancelled, but that I had to pay £15.98 for an unpaid subscription and a £12 late payment charge.

N. W., North Lanarkshire.

Your card was deactivated while your credit was transferred to a new account. 

But you had failed to cancel your subscriptions which is why you were charged. M&S has waived the late payment fee as a goodwill gesture.

*** 

The London Mint Office has been chasing me for payment since I bought a coin for £49.95 in June. 

I have even been threatened by debt collectors. I am 84 years old and do not need this grief.

P. G., Rugby, Warks.

After I intervened, you received a call from the firm to say it had dropped all proceedings against you.

It has since refused to explain to me what went wrong, just that the matter had been resolved. But you are delighted the saga is over.

Mystery safe deposit box is costing us dear 

My husband has banked with the Chiswick branch of NatWest for more than 40 years.

He is being charged £25 per year for a safe deposit box.

Since 2018 we have been trying to establish what it is holding and trying to get it back.

He has also requested that his branch be transferred to Bognor Regis where we now live and for it to be converted to a joint account, as I deal with his finances, although he can approve and sign for things. We have written and we have phoned.

We have been told there is no need to transfer our accounts to a different branch but we cannot get a response to our enquiries about the safe deposit box.

J. C., Bognor Regis, W. Sussex.

Tony Hazell replies: Natwest has finally returned the contents of the safe deposit box to you.

A spokesman apologised for the lack of service: ‘We will be refunding the last four years of charges and offering a further £150 compensation.’

He tells me that a community banker is working with you to help with your other requests regarding your husband’s account.

  • Write to [email protected] co.uk or Ask Tony, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT. Please include your phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organisation giving permission to talk to Tony Hazell. We regret we cannot reply to individual letters. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given 

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