ASK TONY: I had £41,000 of old life policies that even a lawyer couldn’t find
My husband of 64 years passed away in February 2020. He held three life policies which are now with ReAssure, but I’m told it cannot locate them. I appointed a solicitor but, owing to the cost, am now trying to resolve the issues myself.
I have written to ReAssure three times and used its online portal. It either fails to reply or tells me it cannot locate the policies.
Tony Hazell replies: One of the policies your late husband held was from Royal Exchange Assurance, dating back to 1961, and two were from Atlas Assurance, from 1963.
One reader couldn’t locate her husband’s life policies after he died
You had already put in considerable work to track these to ReAssure, as well as paying a useless solicitor £400 plus VAT. ReAssure told you: ‘After a thorough search of our files we are unable to trace this policy.’
I asked the firm to try again, and it spent several weeks trawling through microfiche files before coming back with an astonishing result. These policies were not life insurance. In fact, they were investments which would have paid a lump sum on maturing in 1997, or a regular income through an annuity.
There followed some brain-stretching calculations to work out what you were owed. ReAssure concluded that the annuity income option would have paid more, and so arranged a payment of £24,707.40. But then one of the actuarial team discovered a further policy that had been transferred from Guardian.
This triggered an additional payment of £16,289.23, for a total of £40,996.63. I suggested that sizeable compensation was needed to reflect the potential consequences of those appalling initial errors, when you were given the brush-off. Your daughter also weighed in to demand appropriate reparations. ReAssure covered the solicitor’s fees and — after some negotiation — added £1,000. You have made a generous donation to a prostate cancer charity.
One reader said their friend’s brother was granted power of attorney for their mother but they disappeared with no trace and left her with no financial support
A ReAssure spokesman explains: ‘It is not uncommon for policies to have matured but not been claimed prior to us acquiring them, but the length of time in this case is extremely rare. ‘In normal circumstances we would expect at least a basic record of a policy that terminated before it came to ReAssure, but as these policies matured 20 years before acquisition there was no record of them on our system.’
Having said this, ReAssure accepts that you ‘should not have been told that we just couldn’t find the policy and we are extremely sorry for this’.
YOU HAVE YOUR SAY
Every week, Money Mail receives hundreds of your letters and emails about our stories. Here are some of the best from our feature on the red-hot rental market:
I think it’s better to keep good tenants in your property than try to squeeze every last penny out of them. I have a property which I rent out for well below the market rate, but I’d rather hold on to my current tenants. M.S., West Midlands.
It’s not surprising the rental market has become competitive, when so many landlords have sold up. They’re fed up with the Government always interfering with their business. I’m about to sell and I’m looking forward to the freedom it will bring. L.O., Portsmouth.
Both my daughters struggled to find somewhere to rent last year. One had to pay six months’ rent in advance. The other spent thousands making a run-down property habitable. C.R., Warwickshire.
Families pay such a high percentage of their monthly income in rent, it leaves many unable to save to buy a house. Some could easily afford mortgage repayments, but they will never get the opportunity to buy under current lending rules. J.M., Worcester.
With property prices soaring, it doesn’t surprise me that rents are going up and will continue to rise to keep up with inflation. Landlords have high costs and most can’t afford to subsidise tenants. I feel sorry for people who can’t afford to buy. R.M., Ulster, Ireland.
My lettings agent used to advertise rentals before they were ready to view. But now he doesn’t put word out until they are turn-key ready. He is inundated with applicants each time. In one case, he had 200 people trying to view one house. T.W., Brighton
My friend’s brother was granted power of attorney for their mum after making her sell the family home. He used the family assets to buy a ‘for ever home’ with a granny annexe.
But three months ago, he dropped off his mum with my friend — his brother — changed his phone number and moved. Now my friend is looking after his mum with no financial or emotional support. Neither he nor she knows where her pension is going, nor what other help they can get.
N.S., Dagenham, Essex.
Tony Hazell replies: What kind of person abandons a parent at a sibling’s house and then vanishes with the money? I can only assume the brother is running from debts. Melinda Giles, a member of the Law Society’s wills and equity committee, tells me that if there is a lasting power of attorney (LPA) in place, then your friend should report the situation to the Office of the Public Guardian (OPG), which will investigate the actions of the attorney. While it is not a public document, your friend can apply to the OPG for a search that will confirm details of the LPA.
She adds: ‘He could also report the case to the local authority safeguarding team, and it might be able to provide some help as well as make enquiries of the pension authorities. ‘It would also be prudent for the brother to instruct a solicitor or contact his local Citizens Advice about this issue.’
In addition, I would contact her bank and the Department for Work and Pensions about her state pension. It would help if your friend has his mother’s National Insurance number. He needs legal advice — and the sooner, the better.
My car was vandalised while parked on a main road near my house. Two tyres on the passenger side were stabbed. The garage across the street wanted £160 to replace them; a nationwide fitter quoted £100.
I got a crime number and called my insurer, Hastings Direct. After a 30-minute call I was told my car, a 55-plate Renault Clio, would be written off and collected in 53 days. The call handler then changed her mind and said it would be collected in 50 minutes, and terminated the call. I tried ‘live chat’ and was then told my car would be collected and a courtesy car dropped off. For two weeks I have been emailing and staring at two flat tyres. T.M., Colchester.
Tony Hazell replies: I contacted Hastings Direct and — hey presto — immediately it got in touch with you to sort out this mess. A Hastings Direct spokesman told me: ‘Looking back at the claim, there have been a small number of errors in our customer’s claims journey and we apologise for these. We will be covering the cost of the damaged tyres and have provided a hire car while he is without his vehicle.’ What a lot of time and expense for something that could have been fixed for £100 if Hastings Direct had responded properly on the day you called.
STRAIGHT TO THE POINT
When my husband cancelled his O2 contract, my account was also closed. I asked for it to be reinstated, but instead I was put on a new one-year contract without my knowledge. I have since found a different provider, but O2 is charging me £111 to leave. L.VG., by email.
An O2 spokesman apologises and says one of its advisers gave you the wrong information. You are not required to pay the termination fee.
I have been chasing M&S since June for a £3,696 refund for a cancelled furniture order. The store has told me twice it will send a cheque by special five-day delivery, but nothing has arrived. C.D., Kent.
M&S raised the cheque shortly before you got in touch. You received it five days later and emailed the store to say thank you.
Last year, I worked for three days as a supply teacher before the schools were closed during lockdown. I received £409 in Universal Credit as I had no income, but the Department for Work and Pensions is now demanding it back. J.T., Cheshire.
Your company agreed to furlough you, but owing to a delay you had no income for seven weeks. Yet the DWP insists you were not entitled to the benefit because of your earnings and must repay the money. A spokesman suggests you call its Debt Management Team on 0800 916 064 to discuss a repayment plan.
We bought some appliances from Currys and the salesman persuaded me to pay the bill in instalments through a finance plan with Creation. I have tried to clear the balance to avoid interest charges, but the payment — by credit or debit card — keeps being refused. A.S., Stirling.
Creation could not explain why your payment was not accepted online. It suggests trying by telephone or bank transfer instead. A customer service representative has offered to contact you to help.
We love hearing from our loyal readers, so ask that during this challenging time you write to us by email where possible, as we will not pick up letters sent to our postal address as regularly as usual. You can write to: [email protected] or Ask Tony, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT — please include your daytime phone number, postal address and a separate note addressed to the offending organisation giving it 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.