Greenhalgh Kerr: Specialist Debt Recovery From Deceased Estates For Local Authorities
Our specialist enforcement of recovery from deceased debtors assisted a local authority with a debt for unpaid adult social care costs, following the death of a care home resident.
The resident was known to have owned property inherited from his late wife. The resident had not entered into a deferred payment arrangement in their lifetime which would have secured the care costs against the property.
The resident’s surviving relatives had failed to administer the estate and consequently the care costs accrued by the resident had not been paid.
We contacted the resident’s son who suggested the Will bequeathed the property to the deceased’s sister. He also disputed the charges as the resident believed the council had funded the care.
Negotiations with the son were unsuccessful and a County Court claim was commenced against the estate to recover care charges, interest, and costs. Because the resident’s relatives had not extracted a grant of probate – nor did they agree to represent the estate in the proceedings – we successfully applied to the court to appoint two independent solicitors to represent the estate in the proceedings, to comply with the Civil Procedure Rules.
The representatives of the estate filed an admission of the estate’s liability to repay the debt and a judgment against the estate was obtained. Steps were then taken to enforce the judgment against the estate by a charge against the property. Independent representatives were re-appointed to represent the estate in the further proceedings. Interim and final charging orders were obtained against the resident’s equitable interest in the property.
During the enforcement proceedings, HM Land Registry had issued cancellation of an application to register an interim charging order obtained against another named estate of a deceased debtor. The reason for the cancellation was the estate not being a named person – on their death, their estate had vested in their personal representatives.
HM Land Registry’s cancellation notice stated that the court-ordered charge had to refer to the personal representative of an estate under a grant of representation, issued by a Court in England and Wales.
Consequently, with the agreement of the solicitors who represented the estate in the claim, a consent application was made to vary the title of the resident’s estate on the final charging order, to cite themselves as the personal representatives of the estate on the order itself.
An application to register the varied charging order has been registered and accepted with HM Land Registry, the council consequently has security for the debt. Whereas the independent representatives do not have the authority to administer the estate, the unique approach taken by Greenhalgh Kerr has ensured that the debt owed to the council is secured and will be repaid on any future sale of the property either as part of the administration of the estate, or by an order of the court.
For initial guidance on a deceased estate debt to a local authority, please contact Nicky Kinnear, Associate Solicitor at Greenhalgh Kerr.
Tel: 0333 200 5223
Nicky Kinnear May 2022