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The Department’s policy is to recover all debt where it is reasonable and cost effective to do so. Therefore, action is taken to try to recover any outstanding recoverable debt from the estate of a deceased debtor. I have assumed for the purposes of answering your questions that by the term ‘investigation’ you are referring to cases where the Department is seeking to recover overpayments from a deceased claimant’s estate as described below.
I can confirm that after a holding period of 14 days from recording the date of death, the system will automatically check to see if it holds a correspondent (e.g. next of kin or former appointee). If a correspondent exists, the system will auto issue a request for repayment of the outstanding balance.
If no correspondent details are held (i.e. where the deceased person was the previous correspondent), the system will start its weekly search of probate records for a legal estate. I am unable to give an average time for this process but if probate is granted within 2 years of the date of death, a claim letter will be issued to the Executor / Solicitor dealing with the estate – this is done automatically once probate details have auto-downloaded from the Probate Office. If probate is not granted within 2 years of the date of death, no claim will be made and the balance of the debt will automatically be written off.
The current number of State Pension cases for which a search of probate records is being taken forward is not available, as we do not hold validated data that is specific to State Pension.