Client’s partner died and left her a house (no mortgage). She is on a means-tested benefit and is the closest relative. If she applies for help with the funeral costs, can DWP or SSSA (depending on which agency has jurisdiction) make her sell the house to recover the funeral payment? I know they can recover the payment from the estate but does this run to enforcing the sale of the house?
The estate is supposed to pay the funeral costs before distributing assets such as the house. So your client might well be refused the payment on the basis that the estate is capable of meeting the cost itself. If a payment is awarded, then yes they might enforce and that might well extend to forcing the sale of the house.
This assumes that your client did not own the house with the partner as joint tenants; as in that case, it would pass to her by survivorship, bypassing the estate entirely and it would not need to be deployed to meet the estate’s debts.
At least that’s as well as I remember it.
Edit: and of course, this is entirely based on what I know of English law. I don’t know if it is different in Scotland.[ Edited: 20 Sep 2019 at 11:38 am by Elliot Kent ]
Under the new Scottish rules I think the house is disregarded if it was the home of the couple and the surviving partner still lives there. Whether this is just intended for married / civil partners I’m not sure although at the information session I attended they said they would be as flexible as possible so it may not be taken into account even if they were unmarried.