A chaotic probate and bereavement service at Santander bank, left beneficiaries out of pocket as the bank failed to distribute money from deceased accounts. The FCA has fined Santander £32.8 million, although it was acknowledged that once company directors had discovered the issue they worked quickly to rectify mistakes. One of the worst cases described was an account valued at £120,000 which wasn’t distributed for 13 years – it was only after solicitors pursued the case that funds were released along with £100,000 in compensation.
Dealing with any estate after someone’s death can be incredibly stressful and undoubtedly this situation created major issues for beneficiaries, but it will also have had a knock-on effect for executors who are charged with distributing money to beneficiaries, and some may have been unfairly blamed because of Santander’s failings.
Other banks have been criticised in the past for failing beneficiaries and this particular issue is surprising given that banks introduced a system this year – The Death Notification Service UK, the financial version of the government system ‘Tell us Once’, which was supposed to make it easier for anyone dealing with a deceased estate to notify multiple banks and building societies at the same time. Santander was one of the banks who had signed up to provide this service to bereaved families.
The bank’s Chief Executive, Nathan Bostock stated: “We accept the FCA’s findings and have fully co-operated with their investigation. We have now transferred the majority of customer funds and made significant improvements to our whole probate and bereavement process, ensuring we provide both a sensitive and an efficient service to our bereaved customers… and those who are managing the estates of people who have passed away.”