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Microsoft word - item 14 - appointment of nominees.doc

OFFICER REPORT TO CABINET
APPOINTMENT OF NOMINEES: –
APPLICATIONS TO ADMINISTER ESTATES OF DECEASED
3 November 2009
KEY ISSUE/DECISION:

To decide a process for Surrey County Council to appoint Nominees to apply on its
behalf to obtain a grant of probate or letters of administration in its status as a
creditor.
INTRODUCTION:
There are occasions when Surrey County Council has to take steps to recover debts from people who have not paid for goods and services they have received from the Council. Sometimes services are provided towards the end of someone’s life and the person concerned will have died before formal debt recovery action is taken, or before the recovery action has completed. Usually Surrey County Council will simply deal with the person appointed as Executor or Administrator of the deceased’s estate and arrange for recovery from them of the debt owing to the council. Occasionally, however, no application is made by an Executor for grant of probate to administer the estate, or there is no will and no one applies for letters of administration. This can be because there is no one who is able or willing to act, or it can be that applications are being delayed because there are creditors’ claims against the estate. Where an estate is not administered and Surrey County Council is owed money from the estate, it can, as a creditor, apply to the Probate Registry for a grant of probate or letters of administration to administer the estate of the deceased and so take steps to obtain information about the value of the estate and, in certain cases, recover its debt in the process of administering the estate.
BUSINESS CASE:

4.
A number of cases have arisen where Legal & Insurance Services have been instructed by Accounts Receivable to pursue debt recovery action as part of the council’s debt recovery activities, and the best course of action would be for the Council to apply to administer the estates of deceased debtors in order to recover its debts. There are currently 16 cases, which together amount to debts of £619,541.00, where taking this action would be desirable and/or the only option currently available to the council to recover its debt. One individual case alone amounts to £170,941.00, so there is a clear potential benefit to the council in Legal & Insurance Services taking on this activity. In some cases information is already known about the estate (e.g. property, assets, bank accounts) so that recovery of the council’s debt would appear to have good prospects of success. In other cases, very little may be known about the estate and, once further information is obtained, it may be that very little will be recovered. A recommendation will be made in each case by Legal & Insurance Services, bearing in mind the value of the debt and the information known about the estate, as to whether an application would be cost effective. In some cases, simply making the application itself may prompt another appropriate person (e.g. a relative of the deceased) to administer the estate. If this happens the council will then deal with them to recover its debt from the estate. An application to administer the estate of a deceased debtor is made under the Non-Contentious Probate Rules 1987 (“the Rules”). Where a council wishes to apply to administer the estate as a creditor, the Rules require the council, as a corporate body, to appoint a Nominee by resolution to apply and act on its behalf in administering the estate. A sealed copy of the resolution must be submitted with the application to the Probate Registry. It is therefore proposed that lawyers in Legal & Insurance Services should act as Nominee and apply to administer deceased debtors’ estates on behalf of the council as a creditor, where the amount owing and information available justifies the activity. This action would only be appropriate after it has been established that nobody else is appointed under a will as an Executor, or after a reasonable period of time nobody applies to administer the estate, and/or where there is no one who is able or willing to act. There are already a number of these types of cases and as more will be encountered in the future, it is proposed that the Cabinet Member for Corporate Services should be given the delegated authority to appoint a named lawyer within Legal & Insurance Services to act as Nominee to apply on the Council’s behalf, as a creditor, to administer the estates of deceased debtors. Each case would be dealt with as a Part II item at the Cabinet Member’s decision-making meetings. Each resolution made by the Cabinet Member for Corporate Services would be sealed by the Head of Legal & Insurance Services, and submitted with the application to the Probate Registry.
FINANCIAL AND VALUE FOR MONEY IMPLICATIONS:
12.
Being able to apply to administer the estates of deceased debtors provides an effective means of recovering money owed to the council.
EQUALITIES IMPLICATIONS:
13.
Although the debtor in these situations is deceased, there may be other family members or potential beneficiaries who would be affected by the council’s actions in administering the estate. The potential equalities implications will be assessed in each case before a decision is made to appoint a nominee.
RISK MANAGEMENT IMPLICATIONS

14.
Only appropriate cases should be pursued to avoid any adverse publicity or a disproportionate use of officer time. The control in place at the outset is the requirement that the Cabinet Member for Corporate Services will appoint lawyers as the Nominee in each individual case
IMPLICATIONS FOR THE COUNCIL’S PRIORITIES

15.
The effective collection of debt from the estate of deceased clients will ultimately contribute to the Council’s priority of helping adults to live independently and safely
Section 151 Officer commentary

16.
The Section 151 Officer confirms that all material, financial and business issues and risks have been considered in this report
RECOMMENDATION:
It is recommended that authority to appoint lawyers within Legal & Insurance
Services to act as Nominee to apply on the Council’s behalf as a creditor to
administer the Estate of deceased debtors is delegated to the Cabinet Member for
Corporate Services.
REASON FOR RECOMMENDATION:
To enable the council to apply to administer the Estates of deceased debtors more
readily and recover debts more efficiently.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?


Legal and Insurance officers will ask the Cabinet Member for Corporate Services to
appoint a Nominee in respect of those cases where the Council administering the
estate would be an appropriate means of recovering money owing to it.
Lead/Contact Officer:
Jacky Edwards, Principal Lawyer, Litigation & Employment Team, Legal & Insurance Services; Tel: 020 8541 9745 Consulted:
Ann Charlton, Head of Legal & Insurance Services; Tel: 020 8541 9001 Email: phil.walker@surreycc.gov.uk Tim Hall, Cabinet Member for Corporate Services
Background Papers:

Source: http://mycouncil.surreycc.gov.uk/Data/Cabinet/20091103/Agenda/item%2014%20-%20Appointment%20of%20Nominees.pdf

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