Banking

GRACE ON THE CASE: Why does NS&I keep delaying the payout of my late wife’s funds?

My wife passed away in May. We held several accounts with NS&I.

I notified it online of her passing on 12 May, by completing the required form, and was told it could take up to five weeks to deal with this.

I continued to telephone customer services after not hearing anything and the date was repeatedly pushed back before it eventually said it had no record of being informed.

Without this being sorted, I am not able to get a grant of probate which means I cannot move into a retirement facility – all while I am grieving my wife. Why is it taking so long to sort? C.T., via email

An NS&I customer was left in the lurch after the firm delayed releasing his funds for months

Grace Gausden, consumer expert at This is Money, replies: Firstly, I am very sorry to hear about the passing of your wife.

I am also sorry to hear about the customer service you have experienced at the hands of NS&I when trying to organise you and your wife’s finances – it is not what anyone needs while grieving. 

After contacting NS&I shortly after your wife’s death and requesting to find out how much you had in your accounts plus to have all funds withdrawn so you could complete probate, you were told it would take a matter of weeks to be sorted.

However, after phoning at the beginning of June for an update, you were told it would be a further two weeks and in the middle of June, you were told, again, it would be yet another two weeks wait.

During this phone call you asked the representative to confirm they had received your online application and they confirmed it was in the system waiting to be dealt with.

You subsequently wrote a letter to NS&I complaining about the delay, clearly stating you needed confirmed totals of funds held in your wife’s name at her date of death to be able to obtain a grant of probate.

GRACE ON THE CASE 

Our weekly column sees This is Money consumer expert Grace Gausden tackles reader problems and shines the light on companies doing both good and bad.

Want her to investigate a problem, or do you want to praise a firm for going that extra mile? Get in touch:

[email protected]

Later you were to find there was £54,784.99 in your wife’s individual account, £10,431.38 in your joint bond and £11,176.23 in your direct saver – a total of £76,392.60.

This is a substantial amount that you not only needed to know the sum of to start probate but also wanted to receive so you could begin the process of moving to a retired living facility.  

As a result of your complaint, you received a letter at the end of June stating NS&I had no record of being informed of your wife’s death.

Enclosed with the letter was a form to complete and a request for a death certificate which you returned the same day and enclosed a further request for fund totals.

Another letter came a day later asking for a copy of your wife’s will, and another copy of the death certificate. These were sent by recorded delivery at the beginning of July.

Despite the letter being received, you had not heard anything further so called the company again.

The operative said your request would be dated from 5 July – not the original date you advised them of 12 May – and would take approximately two more months.

NS&I repeatedly told the customer it would take another few weeks with no updates given

NS&I repeatedly told the customer it would take another few weeks with no updates given

This is despite the fact they confirmed your original application was received in mid-May. Surely your case should have been high priority? 

You explained yet again that without the information requested you are not able to get a grant of probate meaning the whole estate is in limbo.

You added that as you are 80 years-old and not in great health, as well as grieving your wife, the whole process was becoming increasingly stressful.

I was sorry to hear about your troubles and understood how time sensitive the issue was, therefore, I contacted NS&I to find out why it as unable to speed up the process for you.

Fortunately, it was apologetic and sympathetic to your problem, with the firm paying out the full amount within a matter of days as well as issuing an apology. 

A spokesperson for NS&I said: ‘Our team has looked into this and they dealt with the late Mrs T’s NS&I holdings on 20 July. 

‘The two joint accounts for Mr and Mrs T have been transferred solely into Mr T’s name.

‘A letter was sent to Mr T dated 20 July explaining this, and it also includes a repayment form for Mrs T’s sole NS&I holding, as well as valuation statements for all Mrs T’s NS&I accounts as at the date of her death.

‘NS&I did receive notification of Mrs T’s death on 12 May via the online bereavement claim form as Mr T says. This was processed on 25 June when NS&I requested sight of Mrs T’s Will and Death Certificate.

‘NS&I received these documents on 5 July, with the bereavement claim then being dealt with on 20 July. The processing of Mr T’s late wife’s estate has taken longer than usual due to delays in NS&I’s back office processing.

‘Due to a strict Covid-19 related lockdown coming into force in Chennai, India, NS&I’s offices in Chennai, where some back office processing tasks are dealt with, were closed from 24 May until 10 June, reopening on 11 June.

‘During this time, NS&I worked to move processes back to our UK sites in order to minimise disruption to our customers. At present, the majority of NS&I’s processes are working to normal timescales, but there are still some delays.

‘We would like to apologise to Mr T for any distress that these delays have caused at what we understand is an extremely difficult time for him.’

Hopefully now you can begin the process of selling up and moving into the retirement facility. I hope NS&I has learnt a lesson here – those who are grieving should be treated more sensitively in my opinion, and given the highest of priorities. 

Grace on the Case ticks past the £300k mark…

It has now been 37 weeks of Grace on the Case and we have helped readers claw back £320,000.

This has included £106,000 for a reader whose husband had died unexpectedly and was waiting for a payment from Legal and General.

It also includes an Amazon customer who was waiting on over £5,000 worth of funds after the site took months to verify her sellers account. 

If you have a consumer issue that you need help with, contact Grace on the Case at [email protected]

GRACE ON THE CASE: Why does NS&I keep delaying the payout of my late wife's funds?

 

Hit and miss: This week’s naughty and nice list

Each week, I look at some of the companies that have fallen short of expected standards as well as those that have gone that extra mile for customers.

Miss: Reader, Anton, has expressed his disappointment with Samsung. He said: ‘I purchased a new TV through Samsung’s website for £999.

‘It claimed to give a £150 cashback to all purchases and in April, I received a code to claim the money back. However, after months of frustration I am still having no luck with Samsung to get this money.

‘I have been given the run around and sent from department to department. I was told people will get back to me but received arguably the worst customer service I have encountered.’

After I contacted Samsung about this, it revealed that you had actually not provided all of the necessary information needed to claim.

A spokesperson for Samsung said: ‘We’re sorry to hear your reader has experienced difficulties. Our special offers are validated by providing purchase information and product serial numbers within a clearly stated timeframe.

‘In this instance, the customer hadn’t supplied the correct information within the timeframe which is why we were unable to provide the cashback.

‘We always want our customers to be satisfied and have worked with Anton to validate the claim on this occasion and resolve the matter.’

Fortunately, you have now received the cashback – but next time it may be worth reading the terms and conditions carefully.

One customer had trouble getting a cashback from Samsung after purchasing a television

One customer had trouble getting a cashback from Samsung after purchasing a television

Hit: This week, reader Jan, wanted to praise energy firm, British Gas.

She said: ‘Due to a change in my mother’s circumstances, we needed to address her financial situation and contacted British Gas. 

‘She has always been more than happy with their service especially the Home Contract covering her gas boiler.

‘She is 89 years old and due to diminishing mobility needs to keep warm. I explained to British Gas about my mum’s circumstances and the customer service agent was kind, helpful, informative and addressed my query brilliantly.

‘During the conversation he referred me on to a colleague who was also extremely helpful and friendly and resolved the Home Contract costs which was an excellent outcome.’

Happy to hear you received such a warm response.

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