Two grieving families have blasted Scottish Widows after they were left waiting six months for their inheritance.
In both cases, an elderly parent had died and the families were due money from either a pension or investment.
But, even though they requested the claims form to withdraw money or had already filled it in, they were left waiting for months. The delays were blamed on IT problems and missing files, the families claim.
Missing payouts: Scottish Widows kept two grieving families waiting for six months to receive their inheritances, blaming the delays on IT problems
Yet, when Money Mail took up the two cases, the pensions giant sprang into action and paid the money back within days.
Scottish Widows will not say how many people have been caught up in delays or disclose the reason.
But, earlier in the year, it admitted customers were experiencing ‘unacceptable delays’, and vowed to ‘increase resources and make changes’.
A Scottish Widows spokesman says: ‘We are sorry for the delays some customers have experienced; the levels of service have fallen short of our normal standards.
‘We’re working hard to improve this by recruiting and training more customer service staff, investing in our systems and simplifying our procedures.’
Bereaved daughter Cathy McKay thought it would be a simple process to obtain the money that had been left in her late father’s estate with Scottish Widows.
When her father, John Woods, died in May at the age of 72, he left Cathy and her two sisters £80,000 in the form of a private pension that he had saved into during his career as a casino manager.
But after a six-month battle to get at the money, they were still waiting — until Money Mail’s involvement last week.
Under official guidance from the Financial Ombudsman, these payments should be made within just ten working days of a provider receiving a claims form. But Cathy faced a gruelling 110-day wait just to get hold of the correct form.
The 51-year-old made weekly phone calls, sent numerous emails and letters, but still hadn’t even received the form required to register her claim.
‘It has dragged on and on,’ she says. ‘It is extremely frustrating that Scottish Widows can treat people like this and hold on to our inheritance. I’ve phoned time and time again over the past four months because nothing was happening.
‘They kept saying they would send the form and I felt they had a real attitude, telling me that I “just had to wait”.’ Within one day of Money Mail’s inquiry, Cathy received an apology from Scottish Widows, along with an email version of the form to complete.
Added grief: In both cases, an elderly parent had died and the families were due money from either a pension or investment
One week later, the payment had been processed, along with £222.80 to cover missed interest and £600 compensation for the inconvenience.
A spokesman says the delay was down to human error: ‘We are very sorry for the delay in settling this claim. ‘We will ensure Mrs McKay isn’t left out of pocket as a result.’
Sarah Morgan, 53 — a single mum, who is on Universal Credit, says she had to get a grant to help pay for the funeral, despite her mother, Jane Clifford, having ear-marked money to cover it.
‘It is totally unacceptable — it’s not what my mother would have wanted,’ she says. ‘I feel like I’ve met with brick wall after brick wall, and finding the energy to phone these people every week is exhausting. It’s so frustrating to know that the money is just sitting somewhere.’
Sarah, from Devon, is owed £9,077, which her mother had invested during her years as a housekeeper.
Jane, who was 84 when she died, had tried to withdraw the money in June, after she was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
However, she made an error with the bank account number when ordering the transfer, which meant the money never arrived and has been stuck in limbo ever since.
Sarah was promised the money within 15 working days of filing her application at the end of July, but she still hadn’t seen any of it.
She has since been told that the IT department is still trying to track down the funds. ‘I’m trying to make ends meet in the meantime. It’s the last thing you need when you are grieving,’ she says. ‘And I’m still dealing with the death last year of my son, who was 19.
‘I would have given up if it wasn’t such a big amount.’
Within a week of Money Mail’s inquiry, Sarah received her mother’s legacy, plus £500 in compensation and £235.56 in interest — a total of £9,813.
‘They have miraculously found the money. It really shouldn’t work that way,’ she says.
A spokesperson for Scottish Widows says: ‘We’re very sorry for not settling Mrs Clifford’s claim sooner. We’ve now processed the payment.’
In September, our consumer champion Sally Hamilton helped a reader who was struggling to recover his late wife’s £16,773 from Scottish Widows. The company offers pensions, life insurance and investments.
After she contacted Scottish Widows, it confirmed it had all the forms and processed the payment, which included 8 per cent interest, plus another £300 for the inconvenience caused.
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